Hope brews after Thai lawmakers say cheers to booze reform bill

Five years ago, Taopiphop Limjittrakorn was arrested for brewing beer at home. Today, he’s a opposition politician celebrating a win for his bill to decriminalize brewing and shatter the monopoly controlling the market.

While attention today was focused on Thailand’s historic legalization of marijuana, this week brought another ray of hope for common sense reforms with the passage of a progressive bill to decriminalize brewing passing parliament yesterday on its first reading in a 178 to 137 vote. Fifteen lawmakers abstained.

If it becomes law, all brewers, from hobbyists to entrepreneurs, would be able to brew without obtaining a license or government permission. 

“First, home brewing would be allowed. If you homebrew without a commercial purpose, it would be totally legal,” Taopiphop of the Move Forward Party told Coconuts this morning. 

Thailand lights up as marijuana goes legal today (Photos)

He said it would strip government regulations such as dictates on how much alcohol must be produced to be legal. 

“So this would be good for micro-breweries and distilleries,” he added. “No such regulations would be imposed any longer by big companies.”

Indeed, it would put a big crack in the monopoly enjoyed by the largest brewers and spark economic growth by giving small-time brewers a foothold in the market. According to Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, it would help small communities transform their agricultural output into alcohol production.

Those opposed to the bill argued that it could affect public health and lead to quality control issues.

The bill would legalize all small-batch brewing and allow homebrewing. For example, operating a brewpub – where alcohol can only be sold on-site – would no longer require the capacity to brew at least 100,000 liters and annually. 

The bill would amend the Excise Tax Act of 2017. While it would be a victory for brewers, it does nothing to change other draconian regulations, specifically Article 32 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which forbids advertising and has been used to justify farcical prosecutions.

The bill, along with a civil unions bill that was more or less approved Tuesday, were previously stalled for months by a procedural maneuver. After his bill moved forward, Taopiphop yesterday celebrated the vote, which came on the same day cannabis liberalization legislation was acted on.

“Thank you to my family, my wife, my team, and everyone in the Move Forward Party, my friends, as well as the opposition and government departments who helped pass today’s draft,” he wrote in a tweet. “To my brothers and sisters in the alcohol industry, especially those in Khlong San, Thonburi, and Bangkok Yai, who provided and support since the day I got arrested #ILikeBeer. We’ve been fighting to this day, and we will continue to fight.”

Despite passing its first reading, the bill is subject to change over the next seven days while it goes through review by a 25-member committee prior to returning to the floor.

Additional reporting Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj

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