In the six months since Thailand essentially legalized marijuana, the number of people considered to be addicted to the drug by health authorities here has nearly quadrupled, sparking a wave of finger-pointing among politicians, Kosuke Inoue reported for Nikkei Asia.
Photo Insert: Despite the declaration that weed dispensaries would not be allowed to display signage advertising their wares, several shops continue to display signs featuring cannabis leaves.
In June 2022, the Thai government struck medical marijuana from a list of narcotics banned for use or distribution and made it legal for medical and culinary uses. To curtail the abuse of the drug, policymakers added a number of guardrails, including the prohibition of sales to the pregnant and those under the age of 20.
Smoking marijuana is also outlawed in public spaces. But ensuring that weed is used for medical instead of recreational purposes has proven complicated, with authorities struggling to enforce the amended laws.
Marijuana is said to be linked to impaired learning capacity when used at a young age. Extended abuse of the drug may lead to psychiatric disorders and the inability to function in society, according to experts.
In the first five months of 2022 prior to the decriminalization, there was an average of 72 recorded cases of marijuana addictions per month, according to the Ministry of Public Health. Between June and November, the number shot up to 282 cases.
Last year, those said to be addicted to marijuana accounted for roughly 17% of psychiatric patients needing intensive care -- a five-year high and a sign that the drug's legalization may have resulted in additional pressure on hospitals.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the public health minister who pushed for the legalization of marijuana, said weed dispensaries would not be allowed to display signage advertising their wares. Despite that declaration, several shops continue to display signs featuring cannabis leaves.