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Thailand To Release All Cannabis Prisoners

In just a matter of days, Thailand will implement a very unique and bold approach to cannabis policy. On June 9th a new law goes into effect that will, among other things, legalize home cultivation for every household in the nation.

Thailand will launch a registration program in which households can sign up to cultivate low-THC cannabis and make use of harvests in various ways, including eventually selling it to the government.

To assist in helping households participate, the government is offering extremely low-interest loans to aspiring cultivators and distributing over one million cannabis seeds to households across the country.

Additionally, as announced this week, Thailand will also be releasing thousands of people currently serving time for cannabis offenses. Per Bangkok Post:

Ongoing trials and detention in connection with cannabis-related offences will be cancelled once revised restrictions take effect on Thursday, according to the Office of the Judiciary.

The production, import, export, distribution, consumption and possession of cannabis — except for its psychoactive substances — will be formally legalised on June 9 when a Ministry of Public Health announcement published in the Royal Gazette on Feb 9 takes effect, said Sorawit Limparangsri, a spokesman for the Office.

Cannabis-related offences that resulted in court cases and detention prior to June 9 will be cancelled, with any bond payments to be returned. People incarcerated in related trials serving jail time due to an inability to pay fines will also be released, according to the agency.

In addition to people being freed from prison and current prosecutions being abandoned, people previously convicted of some cannabis offenses will have those prosecutions removed from their records.

People awaiting trial will still have to show up to court as a procedural requirement, however, it’s only so that a judicial review can be performed to ensure that the case is eligible for dismissal.

It’s worth noting that not every case involving cannabis will be eligible for release, dismissal, and/or expungement. Some cases that involve cannabis also involve other offenses, so obviously in those instances, the case will remain in the criminal justice system. The same is true for cannabis cases that are beyond the parameters permitted by the new cannabis law.

Still, it’s estimated that over 4,000 cannabis prisoners will be released next week in Thailand, and that doesn’t seem to include pending cases, expungements for people that already served their sentences, and the prevention of future cases. It’s a significant move by Thailand, and hopefully other countries will work to do the same.