The law on limiting the widespread use of the drug is stuck in parliament, as some lawmakers have stated that the law does not restrict recreational use. After that, the lower house of Parliament dissolved to make room for new parliamentarians elected in the upcoming elections.
With lax regulation, the marijuana industry has taken off. From more than a million farmers growing the plant to 4,500 dispensaries distributing marijuana in every province of Thailand. According to the findings of the University of the Chamber of Commerce of Thailand, it is expected that by 2025 the value of the marijuana industry will be $ 1 billion. Participants in numerous supply chains are waiting to see how the voting will end over the weekend.
Among them is 60-year-old Olarn Yukanchanaset, who invested more than a million baht in the creation of two greenhouses and a covered cannabis farm in the backyard of a house in the northeastern province of Buriram — the “herbal capital” of Thailand and the stronghold of the Bumyazhtai party.
“It was like being left adrift in the ocean,” Olarn said, surrounded by rows of cannabis growing lamps shining on dozens of flowering plants. Inside the house, cannabis bushes are hung to dry in a spare bedroom, which the man converted into a room for drying and storing marijuana.
“I will support any party that promotes cannabis regulation”
Olarn’s mood is shared by cannabis producers, especially in Buriram, where the streets are decorated with posters with the face of the leader of the Bumyazhtai party, Anutin Charnvirakul, promising a number of measures to improve the welfare of people if elected to power.
Although polls show that other parties have a larger advantage, Anutin knows that the election could make him the next prime minister, as happened in 2019 when he supported the current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
In an interview, Anutin said that the support of the bill on the regulation of cannabis, which failed in the parliament of the last convocation, is crucial for gaining the support of the Bumyazhtai party.
“Bumyazhtai is the only party that will ensure the continuation of the legalization policy regarding cannabis with the help of a law supporting the plant,” Anutin said.
Among those who threaten to completely abolish the legalization policy is the Phya Thai party, which, according to forecasts of any pre—election polls, will get the most seats in the new 500-member House of Representatives.
The return of cannabis to the status of a drug will preserve medical use, but will protect against recreational use that corrupts the youth of Thailand, says Phya Thai.
Even the progressive Movement Forward Party, which advocates liberalization in most other areas, does not support the legalization of marijuana, stating that it is necessary to go back to the beginning before gradually allowing wider use of cannabis.
A motorcycle with a sidecar drives past the propaganda posters of Anutin Charnvirakul in Nakhon Sawan Province, north of Bangkok
Away from the politicking and debate in Bangkok, farmers are afraid of losing a significant source of income so soon after receiving it. For years, Thailand’s 14 million farmers, the largest constituency in the country, have faced volatile export prices for basic agricultural commodities from rice to rubber, as well as natural disasters, including drought and floods. In one year, farmers began to consider cannabis as a reliable lifeline, contributing to an increase in income and an improvement in living standards.
On one rai of land (16 acres), farmers earn 500,000 baht for a crop of cannabis inflorescences compared to 8,000 baht for rice grown on the same area, said Sivasana Khobjaiklanga, 41-year-old leader of a network called Sanom, which includes seven farms owned by young farmers of Buriram.
Sivasan says his dream is for Thailand to adopt a cannabis law regulating the production and sale of marijuana, which will make it easier for farmers to contact local businesses, as well as export products.
What is at stake for this group of people makes their election choices very simple and more important.
“Cannabis is being held as a political hostage,” Sivasan said at a farm where cannabis plants tower over vegetable beds. “This is only halfway to a dream that is difficult to achieve without legal clarity.”
It is unclear how people will react if Thailand’s policy, which allows the limited use of cannabis in food and cosmetics, is canceled.
The Bumyazhtai party “did what it promised” when it achieved the decriminalization of cannabis, said Kaikanit Sakdisubha, founder of Taratera, which buys the plant from local producers for sale in five dispensaries in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.