Thailand warned against 'liberalisation' of cannabis use

Thailand warned against 'liberalisation' of cannabis use

The International Narcotics Control Board has advised the government to be cautious in liberalising marijuana for medical use. (Government Pharmaceutical Organisation photo)
The International Narcotics Control Board has advised the government to be cautious in liberalising marijuana for medical use. (Government Pharmaceutical Organisation photo)

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has advised the government to proceed with extreme caution on its cannabis policy, warning that Thailand must abide by international drug control treaties and guard against a damaging policy misstep.

Viroj Sumyai, president of the Vienna-based INCB, said Thailand is bound by three major international narcotic control agreements, which authorities must study thoroughly given the decision to legalise medical cannabis. 

The INCB was monitoring cannabis policy in Southeast Asian countries and was deeply concerned about the hype around "liberalisation" of the plant's use in Thailand.

Earlier, Mr Viroj warned that Thailand would lose import privileges for some medicines if it decided to decriminalise marijuana for recreational use. Concerns were apparently sparked by a proposal to allow each household to grow up to six marijuana plants for private use.

The proposal was floated during the election campaign by the Bhumjaithai Party, whose leader Anutin Charnvirakul is now public health minister. 

According to Mr Viroj, Thailand is obliged to comply with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which classifies cannabis as a narcotic but permits its use under supervised medical conditions. The country must also comply with the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

"Before the government proceeds with any drug policy, it is strongly recommended that it examines these agreements," he said. The country's healthcare system stood to lose if the government flouts the UN convention on narcotic drugs.

He said any government which authorises the use of cannabis for medical purposes needs to meet a number of conditions under the 1961 drug control agreement. These included providing estimates of anticipated consumption and details of the area and geographical location of any cultivation. 

"Estimates of the [number of] plants for production of cannabis-based Thai traditional medicines will have to be reported too," he said.

Niyom Termsrisuk, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said his agency and the Public Health Ministry had yet to decide on the composition of a committee to oversee production and consumption of medical cannabis.

He stressed that under the Narcotic Drugs Act cannabis remains illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell without official permission.

On the wider drug situation, he said authorities were on high alert for the spread of methamphetamine -- a synthetic drug that can be easily produced using a wide range of different chemical precursors.

Permanent secretary for justice Wisit Wisitsora-at said the Justice Ministry and ONCB were pushing ahead with narcotics control legislation to streamline all drug-related laws and regulations.

He said the draft bill sought to combine all drug suppression laws and regulations now enforced by different agencies into a single bill, to facilitate the efficiency of control in line with the national strategic plan.


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