Clear the air in weed row

Clear the air in weed row

As cannabis advocates and opponents are at loggerheads, moves to decriminalise the controversial plant hang in the air.

Despite pledges of support from most parties for ganja decriminalisation in parliament, several are now backtracking, presumably out of fears of votes in the forthcoming elections going to their main rival, the Bhumjaithai Party (BJT), which hatched the policy.

The BJT touted cannabis decriminalisation for medical use as its flagship policy during the 2019 campaign, aiming to turn the plant into a new cash crop.

The policy was not without obstacles, as key agencies discreetly resisted and resorted to foot-dragging in policy implementation.

Yet the BJT on June 9 succeeded in having the plant removed as a Type 5 narcotic drug, meaning almost all parts of the plant can be used, except for where the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is over 0.2% of the total weight.

Unfortunately, a lack of cooperation from bureaucrats in rolling out control mechanisms to regulate cannabis use is giving it a bad name. Cases of abuse, like underage consumption, rampant sales, and kids smoking cannabis in schools have emerged.

The BJT and key ganja advocates are now pushing for a bill on cannabis and hemp to help save their policy.

The party was disappointed when major coalition partners such as the Democrat Party withdrew their support, demanding the plant be re-listed as a narcotic drug.

Some Pheu Thai Party politicians even sought an Administrative Court injunction.

These politicians and even some medical associations have been quick to demonise these medicinal plants, even though cannabis was used by traditional medicine practitioners for hundreds of years before its eventual ban decades ago.

But going back to square one by putting the plant back on the Type 5 narcotic drugs list is not an answer to the cannabis issue.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul made a last-ditch effort to salvage the policy by designating cannabis buds, which also contain the psychoactive substance, as a controlled herb, in the hope of winning public approval for the plant.

Staunch cannabis advocates like Decha Siripat, also a traditional medicine practitioner, and Prasitthichai Nunual, a member of a panel drafting the marijuana and hemp bill, argued society has it all wrong about the plant's image as a narcotic substance.

Cannabis, unlike cigarettes and booze, does not have elements which can make people addicted, they claimed.

Recreational cannabis can be accepted to a certain extent if control mechanisms are fully implemented.

Mr Prasitthichai, who is also chairman of the NGOs coordinating committee for the southern region, is likely to ensure the bill has sufficient control mechanisms in place.

He urges negotiations, saying those opposed to legalising the plant should go through the bill and offer recommendations, rather than ditching it right away.

He is right. Society should see the big picture of cannabis decriminalisation, not just a few debacles which have taken place amid a legal vacuum.

Misuse can be dealt with without difficulty if law enforcers do their jobs properly. It is time for clear heads in dealing with cannabis policy.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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