BANGKOK, Feb 29 (Reuters). Thailand will ban recreational use of marijuana by the end of this year but continue to allow medical use, the health minister told Reuters in an interview.

Tens of thousands of cannabis shops have sprung up in an industry expected to be worth as much as $1.2 billion by next year after Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to allow medical use in 2018 and recreational use in 2022.

Critics say the regulations were hastily drafted and passed within a week of decriminalization, with the government also drafting a new law regulating marijuana use that is expected to take effect by the end of the year.

Health Minister Jonan Srikayev said the draft law would be submitted to the cabinet for approval next month before being sent to parliament for approval by the end of the year.

“If there is no law to regulate marijuana, it will be abused,” Jonan said on Wednesday of recreational use.

"The abuse of cannabis hurts Thai children,"he added. "In the long run, it could lead to other drugs.

The previous government failed to pass legislation before last May's general election, leaving Thailand without a general law regulating marijuana use.

Illegal marijuana shops will not be allowed to remain open and domestic cultivation will also be banned, Cholnan added, and he expects the number of legally registered shops to be 20,000.

"Under the new law, marijuana will become a controlled plant, so a license will be required to grow it," he said.

Thailand to ban recreational cannabis use by year-end

We will support the medical and health care industry (marijuana cultivation

The draft law imposes a fine of up to 60,000 baht ($1,700) for recreational use, while those who sell marijuana for such use and those involved in the promotion or marketing of flower, resin, extracts, or smoking devices will face a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($2,800), or both.

It also toughens punishment for cannabis farming without a license, with jail terms ranging from one to three years and fines from 20,000 baht ($560) to 300,000 baht ($8,000).

Import, export, cultivation and commercial use of cannabis will also require permits now, the minister added.

The government, recognizing the economic benefit of the cannabis industry, would give businesses time to adjust to the new regulation, Cholnan said.

Such shops could operate until their licenses expire and convert to legal cannabis clinics if they follow the new rules, Cholnan said, adding that the new regulation would have no impact on tourism.

Comments for ban recreational cannabis use by year-end

Thailand's move to potentially ban recreational cannabis use by year-end marks a significant shift in the country's cannabis policy. This decision reflects a careful consideration of both the medical benefits and the public health concerns associated with cannabis use. As the industry adapts to these changes, there is an opportunity to create a well-regulated market that prioritizes health and safety while still harnessing the economic potential of cannabis. Dispensaries and stakeholders will need to stay informed and proactive to navigate this evolving landscape effectively.

Anyway, Thaiweedland Still supporting the liberalization of marijuana for the growing business of cannabis shops and farms.

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