Rethinking cannabis
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Rethinking cannabis

In a progressive move, the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine plans to have local cannabis strains registered as a national heritage item before seeking Unesco recognition.

The department has gathered over 30 local strains and recorded the DNA of each one to make a database of the strains grown here with the information to be used to register geographical indications.

The move, if successful, will help de-stigmatise the plant, a traditional herb, away from being an illicit drug under the original anti-narcotics law.

During the opening of "kick-off cannabis town'' in Nakhon Phanom this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul vowed that cannabis, as well as hemp, will be removed from the narcotic drugs list by next year.

This will mean there will be no more restrictions on the use of cannabis flowers and seeds.

Mr Anutin has also set up a panel comprising experts from various fields to find ways to put the policy into practice. Cannabis legalisation was a flagship policy of Mr Anutin's Bhumjaithai Party during the 2019 election campaign which will allow each household to grow a maximum of six cannabis plants.

Despite his party being a major government coalition partner, the policy faces several hurdles.

To begin with, people have complained that state regulations make the application process for six cannabis plants per household too complicated. The policy's exclusion of cannabis flowers which contain some elements that cause intoxication and seeds from household use is seen as unrealistic.

Decha Siripat, a medicinal cannabis advocate, whose herbal formula contains cannabis flowers, said such restrictions must be reviewed.

He agreed that the flowers, if wrongly used, can cause intoxication but it's not the same as alcohol drunkenness, which is harmful, he said. Despite its intoxicating nature, he insisted the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.

Mr Decha said the original anti-narcotic law that banned cannabis and hemp was a missed opportunity for the country, when both had been used as traditional herbs and cooking ingredients for centuries.

Now local wisdom over the plants has long been forgotten due to unwise state policy.

According to Mr Decha, cannabis can treat at least eight forms of illness, but the ministry limits the number of diseases to three, namely cancer, Parkinson's disease and migraines.

Traditional practitioners who have distributed free cannabis oil extracts have noted that the herb is also good for treating those with allergies, insomnia, pain and depression. Proper intake of cannabis tonic, from his experience, helps strengthen the immune system which is necessary during the pandemic, he added.

It's necessary for the new panel to be open to all inputs, including those from genuine practitioners like Mr Decha. It has to look into undue restrictions from stiff, unrealistic regulations, that have inappropriately hindered cannabis registration processes, and the use of the herb for medical purposes and resolve to fix them.

At the same time, it should encourage more R&D studies, so as to expand traditional knowledge as opposed to suppressing it.

But before anything else, the panel needs to be instrumental in ending the hypocrisy around cannabis, so state agencies can make informed and balanced decisions.

If these tasks can be completed, local cannabis will regain the recognition it deserves.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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