Weed 'cons' overlooked

Weed 'cons' overlooked

After years of audacious campaigning, cannabis advocacy groups finally achieved their goal of having marijuana delisted from the narcotics list -- paving the way for medical users to reap the benefits of the plant.

Last Thursday, the authorities finally legalised cannabis. From now on, anyone can cultivate and possess marijuana at home for medicinal and other purposes.

However cannabis oil extracts containing more than 0.2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the psychoactive ingredient responsible for feelings of euphoria -- are still considered a Category 5 substance, regulated by the narcotics control and suppression laws.

The decriminalisation is expected to be a game changer and feed hope among growers to tap into the lucrative global medical cannabis market, which was worth US$11 billion (385 billion baht) in 2015, according to Grand View Research.

It is expected to hit $56 billion by 2025.

As the medical industry requires standardised plants, it remains to be seen whether locally homegrown cannabis will be considered acceptable.

What we can be almost sure of is the ensuing backlash caused by the misuse of cannabis, something that has been surprisingly off the radar during the two years it has taken to decriminalise the plant.

Society is already seeing reports about the misuse of recreational cannabis.

Yesterday, four patients were admitted to hospitals in Bangkok for apparently overdosing on the drug, despite this being incredibly rare.

Concern over its recreational misuse even prompted newly installed Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt to declare over 400 schools run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) as being "cannabis-free spaces".

Such unusual side effects theoretically could have been prevented if the Ministry of Public Health was more cautious.

It has had two years to prepare measures and pass laws regulating the use of cannabis.

However, until now, the ministry has only issued ministerial regulations on how to consume the plant.

Just a day before the move to decriminalise it took effect, parliament passed the first reading of the cannabis and hemp bill -- a legal tool to regulate its misuse, especially among youngsters.

Apparently, the policy has been rigged together in a haphazard manner based on a desire to hasten its legalisation without preparing for any unwanted outcomes.

In response to the backlash, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has pushed for its legalisation, went into defensive mode.

He grudgingly admitted the news of the side effects had been overblown and politicised. Moreover, he said he has warned the public before that smoking pot is not good for your health and it is the duty of schools to prohibit students from doing so.

He said the newly implemented policy, endorsed by him and the Bhumjaithai Party, was curated to promote cannabis for medicinal use.

"This policy is made to provide good things to society and the public."

Apparently, the health ministry got in wrong.

There are pros and cons to cannabis.

The problem is that the ministry, under Mr Anutin's guidance, chose to only focus on one side of the coin rather than fully fleshing out the issues and ensuring all bases are covered.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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