Advocates and entrepreneurs who rallied at the health ministry today to demand weed remain legal and free were relieved after Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul vowed that it would never be recriminalized – so long as he remains in office.
Dozens of pro-cannabis activists and dispensary owners converged on the public health ministry Wednesday afternoon to show support for Anutin, who is widely credited for engineering the de facto legalization of marijuana, amid growing fear that the new paradigm will endure.
“It’s not possible as long as I’m minister of health,” Anutin told the crowd in a ministry conference room.
Anutin said the health ministry is devising directives to better control the sale of cannabis, which has been all but unrestricted since June 9, including a requirement that retail locations are staffed by qualified medical professionals. He said all dispensary owners should promote weed’s medical benefits – in line with his own assurances that it was decriminalized for such benefits – and also acquire a license to avoid legal problems.
Still, he made it clear that the future of legal weed was clouded in smoke – and could rely on him and his ruling coalition remaining in power.
“So please vote for the Bhumjaithai Party,” Anutin told those in attendance, adding, “You have nothing to worry about when it comes to recriminalization as long as I’m in office. You should vote for me in the next election.”
The meeting was organized by cannabis boosters who wanted to show that the wide support for cannabis extended beyond stoners and hippies to the mainstream, middle class who have seen their post-pandemic fortunes improve by joining the nascent cannabis industry.
Soranut “Beer” Masayavanich, who had rallied supporters in recent days to attend today’s rally, told Coconuts that it was a relief to hear Anutin tell him directly that weed won’t go back to being illegal after rumors mounted that the Narcotics Control Board, which voted earlier this year to remove cannabis buds from the list of controlled substances, might reverse their decision.
“We’re sure that weed is not gonna be a drug again. Everyone is happy,” said the owner of Sukhumweed dispensary. Our next step is to keep things civilized. I hope everyone is on board.”
Asked if he’s worried about weed being relisted as a narcotic drug again, Soranut referenced the new directives floated by Anutin.
“I’m relieved. New regulations will come out in a few month,” he said. “I just want to hear from Anutin’s mouth that hell won’t be on earth.”
In recent months, opposition politicians have vowed to repeal decriminalization, citing recreational smoking among youth and a Reefer Madness-style moral panic perpetuated by misinformation by the Thai-language news media that relied on medically unsound misinformation.
Just yesterday, the military-backed government’s chief legal adviser also vowed that cannabis would not become illegal again.
Though the meeting offered more signal than substance, Anutin said the next goal was to work with advocates and owners to find ways to educate people about weed while the opposition continues to demonize cannabis through the media.
The secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration spoke at the meeting to underscore Anutin’s message.
“The weed plant is not illegal but it is a legally controlled product,” Paisan Dankhum said. “We are not going to recriminalize cannabis but instead create a set of rules via directives to control it.”
Investor Tom Kruesopon, who has worked with Anutin and his party, suggested that weed advocates go online and help promote the benefits weed can yield, in their more sober moments: “Don’t do it while high.”