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The Meaninglessness of The 9th of June: Cannabis in Thailand, The Narcotics List & The Uruguay Model
In this article, I rethink some priors that informed my article from last year and make the case that the best of cannabis in Thailand is yet to come.
Thailand and Global Cannabis Reform: Navigating Cannabis Legalization While Tethered to A Narcotics List
Waiting to be approved as Thailand’s next Prime Minister, the leader of the Move Forward Party generated much fear and loathing when he announced that he had reached an agreement with his coalition allies to return cannabis to the narcotics list.
But reflecting on the global context of this agreement can turn fear into anticipation and loathing into respect.
In the realm of drug policy, a tale is unfolding across the globe. It is a story of cannabis and its place on the narcotics list. Watch the countries as they fall. The green wave is here. It’s not going away. The list of countries continues to grow as more of them dare to challenge established anti-cannabis stigmas and strive to find the elusive economic spark for economies sputtering under the gunk of Covid lockdowns, inflation and soaring energy costs.
In The Netherlands, cannabis quietly persists, tucked away in designated "coffee shops." The Dutch, pragmatic as ever, tolerate its presence, straddling the fine line between legality and rebellion. Yet cannabis has never been removed from the country’s narcotics list.
Across the sprawling expanse of Canada, an experiment unfolds. Cannabis is fully legalized, but it remains on the narcotics list. The Canadian government, mindful of its international obligations, crafts a framework of regulation for production, distribution, and sale. It is a delicate dance between progress and tradition.
Jamaica, the vibrant birthplace of Rastafari, loosens its grip on cannabis. Smaller amounts are decriminalized, and its sacramental use by adherents is acknowledged. A celebration of cultural heritage mixed with practicality.
From Georgia to Mexico, countries cautiously embrace cannabis reform. Personal possession and cultivation are decriminalized, yet cannabis retains its controlled substance status. A nod to justice, tempered with a measured approach.
Uruguay, a small South American nation, breaks free from convention, legalizing over-the-counter cannabis in full view of international drug control treaties. And yet, it remains a controlled substance, a subtle nod to conformity amidst a bold move.
Why Do They Keep Cannabis On Their List of Narcotics?
Motivations vary - public opinion shifts and considerations of health and economics. Each country follows its path, balancing these factors according to its unique circumstances.
To legalize cannabis while keeping it on the narcotics list is to walk a tightrope. It requires meticulous regulation, age restrictions, licensing, taxation, and public education. A delicate equilibrium of control and freedom.
In the spirit of the present, these countries strive to challenge the norm, to seek progress within the confines of established order. Their stories, woven together, paint a picture of a world grappling with the complexities of drug policy.
And so, the tale of cannabis legalization intertwines with the narcotics list, capturing the essence of a changing world, where nations test the boundaries of convention, forging their paths amidst the delicate dance of control and liberation.
Thai Ganja starts in a fever. Cannabis is unceremoniously pushed off the narcotics list on June 9, 2022. Regulations are supposed to follow. But they never do. Licenses are cheap and easy for Thais to obtain. I hate the phrase “green rush”. Overused. Undefined. Suggestive of a mad dash for money. Still, I can’t do without it. In both senses. The obvious use refers to the pace at which the dispensaries proliferated and their variety.
It was like the gold rush in the Klondike at the end of the 19th century. Mayhem. Pandemonium. Hype. Hope. Repeat. The highest estimates put the “peak Thai Ganja pre-regulations” at 12,000 dispensaries, though estimates of licenses granted are closer to 8,000. It’s when you look into the various venues that the rush takes on its second sense.
The green rush in Thailand was a head rush for consumers as it was a mad dash for producers. One day a gram of lousy weed compressed with stems and seeds can get you into some deep shit if and when you got stopped. The next day an old grandpa is explaining the strains he has for sale as you sit back and enjoy a spliff on the couch in his tiny corner shop on the outskirts of Rawai on the way to Chalong in Phuket.
The green rush was a head rush because you had the feeling that the right people, the good people were winning for a change. And you were in the middle of it and the world was turning right side round for a change. The sun breaks through thunderclouds and shines on the helmets hanging onto rearview mirrors; there is a second-hand shop on one side and a motorbike mechanic on the other. Baked, and in the middle of an impromptu social event at 3 PM: Green rush as head rush in the village at the Southern Tip of the island in early July.
As June 9, 2023 approached, rumors started to feed on one another and soon everyone knew regulations were coming. The fly-by-nights could sense that the night was coming and it would be time for them to fly. Know-it-alls read the regulations that existed in their minds only and the conscientious and well-capitalized kept re-investing in weed. Now the brazen act that started it all is going to be reversed. It’s no rumor. The revolution will not be televised because the revolution is being put to bed or into a cacoon or driving into a speed trap that doesn’t worry anybody who's not over the speed limit.
Between the first anniversary of all of this on June 9th, 2023, and the high season starting in November, Thailand possesses a unique opportunity to merge its traditional medical wisdom with the modern landscape of cannabis.
By legalizing cannabis for over-the-counter use, Thailand could tap into its extensive knowledge of herbal remedies and therapeutic practices. This integration would not only preserve and promote the country's traditional medicine but also open doors to scientific research and innovation, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of cannabis's potential benefits.
Thai traditional medicine, deeply rooted in the country's cultural fabric, could serve as a guiding principle in the responsible use and distribution of cannabis. Drawing upon centuries of herbal knowledge, Thailand could develop a nuanced framework that balances traditional wisdom with contemporary scientific advancements.
Through careful regulation, education, and quality control, Thailand could ensure the safe and effective utilization of cannabis products within its borders. This approach would also provide an opportunity for economic growth, as the country's renowned strains and expertise in herbal medicine could attract both domestic and international markets.
By highlighting the symbiotic relationship between cannabis and traditional healing practices, Thailand could preserve and revitalize its cultural traditions while embracing the progressive aspects of drug policy reform.
Thorough research, collaboration with medical professionals, and the establishment of regulatory frameworks are essential to maximize the potential benefits while mitigating potential risks. Striking a balance between cultural heritage and evidence-based medicine will be paramount in creating a sustainable and responsible cannabis industry.
By embracing this path, Thailand could become a global leader in the responsible use of cannabis, combining its cultural legacy with scientific advancements. This endeavor could not only contribute to the well-being of its citizens but also stimulate economic growth and elevate Thailand's position as a hub of traditional medicine and modern innovation.
Why Thailand Should Follow The Uruguay Model
Thailand can glean valuable insights from the Uruguay model of cannabis legalization as it contemplates its own approach, particularly considering Thailand's comparative advantage in Thai traditional medicine. By studying and learning from the Uruguayan experience, Thailand can navigate the complexities of cannabis reform while incorporating its rich heritage of traditional healing practices.
One crucial lesson that Thailand can draw from Uruguay is the importance of conforming to international drug control treaties. Uruguay's decision to retain cannabis on the narcotics list while legalizing its use demonstrates a strategic approach to meeting global obligations. Thailand, with its international standing and commitments, should carefully consider the implications of cannabis legalization within the framework of international conventions.
Developing a robust regulatory framework is essential to ensure the safe and responsible use of cannabis. Uruguay's experience in establishing regulations for production, distribution, and sale can serve as a guide for Thailand to craft a comprehensive system that prioritizes public health and safety.
Incorporating Thai traditional medicine into the cannabis industry is another area where Thailand can benefit from the Uruguay model. By integrating its heritage of traditional healing practices with the legalization of cannabis, Thailand can create a unique and culturally resonant approach. The expertise in Thai traditional medicine can inform the development of specialized cannabis-based treatments and products, aligning with Thailand's holistic approach to wellness.
Breakdown of Key Aspects of The Uruguay Model Relevant to Cannabis in Thailand
The following key aspects provide valuable insights into the country's progressive stance and can serve as points of interest for Thailand as it considers similar reforms.
Full Legalization: Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis, allowing for the production, sale, and consumption of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
State Regulation: Uruguay opted for a model of state regulation, with the government assuming control over various aspects of the cannabis industry. This included overseeing the licensing of producers, establishing quality control measures, and managing the distribution and sale of cannabis through registered dispensaries.
Social Experiment: Uruguay's cannabis reform was driven by a desire to address public health concerns, reduce drug-related violence, and tackle the black market. The country's approach can be seen as a social experiment, aiming to disrupt the illicit market and create a legal and controlled framework for cannabis use.
Individual Rights: The Uruguayan model prioritizes individual rights, allowing citizens and residents to cultivate cannabis for personal use. This provision grants individuals the freedom to grow a limited number of plants and encourages self-sufficiency, reducing reliance on commercial sources.
Public Education: Recognizing the importance of informing the public about responsible cannabis use, Uruguay invested in comprehensive educational campaigns. These initiatives aimed to raise awareness about potential risks and benefits, promote responsible consumption practices, and debunk common misconceptions surrounding cannabis.
International Compliance: Despite legalizing cannabis, Uruguay maintained its commitment to international drug control treaties. By keeping cannabis on the narcotics list, Uruguay aimed to reconcile its progressive approach with global obligations, ensuring compliance with international legal frameworks.
Scientific Research: Uruguay's cannabis legal reform also emphasized the importance of scientific research and evidence-based policymaking. The country established the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), which oversees research initiatives to evaluate the impact of cannabis legalization on public health, social dynamics, and the economy. This commitment to research enables policymakers to make informed decisions based on empirical evidence, ensuring the continuous improvement and refinement of the regulatory framework.
International Influence: Uruguay's pioneering cannabis reform has had a ripple effect worldwide, influencing the global discourse on drug policy. The country's successful implementation of cannabis legalization has inspired other nations to consider alternative approaches to drug control, sparking debates and discussions on the potential benefits and challenges associated with a regulated cannabis market.
Economic Opportunities: Uruguay recognized the economic potential of the cannabis industry and sought to capitalize on it. By legalizing cannabis, the country opened doors for job creation, entrepreneurship, and investment in related sectors such as cultivation, production, distribution, and tourism. This economic stimulation has the potential to contribute to the country's overall development and well-being.
Monitoring and Evaluation: Uruguay's cannabis reform includes a robust system for monitoring and evaluating the impacts of legalization. Regular assessments and reviews allow policymakers to assess the effectiveness of the regulatory framework, make necessary adjustments, and ensure ongoing compliance with the desired goals of public health, safety, and social equity.
Public Support: Uruguay's cannabis reform enjoys significant public support within the country. The reform was driven by grassroots efforts and a desire to address longstanding issues associated with drug prohibition. The inclusive approach and engagement of various stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, policymakers, and civil society, fostered a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for the successful implementation of the reform.
Evolution and Adaptation: Uruguay's cannabis legalization is an ongoing process that continues to evolve and adapt. The country remains open to revisiting and refining its regulations based on emerging evidence, societal needs, and global developments. This commitment to flexibility and continuous improvement ensures that the regulatory framework remains responsive and aligned with the evolving landscape of cannabis use and research.
The combination of these salient points in Uruguay's cannabis legal reform provides a comprehensive and dynamic model from which Thailand can draw inspiration. By considering these aspects and tailoring them to its own unique contexts Thailand can develop progressive and effective frameworks for cannabis legalization that address public health, economic opportunities, and international obligations.
Thailand can learn valuable lessons from the Uruguay model, including the importance of complying with international drug control treaties, establishing robust regulations, incorporating traditional medicine, and prioritizing public education. By drawing from these insights, Thailand can navigate the path of cannabis reform with wisdom and prudence, embracing its rich heritage while embracing the opportunities and challenges of the modern cannabis landscape.
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