Experts raise cannabis concerns

Experts raise cannabis concerns

No law yet prohibiting underage use

A man displays buds to celebrate the legalisation of cannabis at the “Thailand 420: Legalaew!” weekend festival hosted by Highland in Nakhon Pathom province on Saturday. (AFP photo)
A man displays buds to celebrate the legalisation of cannabis at the “Thailand 420: Legalaew!” weekend festival hosted by Highland in Nakhon Pathom province on Saturday. (AFP photo)

Concerns over the recreational use of cannabis have been raised following the plant's decriminalisation, with doctors citing problems surrounding a lack of proper regulations.

Chanchai Sittipunt, dean of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, said he is concerned about youths having easy access to cannabis as there is currently no law prohibiting underage use.

"It is a bit late to wait for [the Cannabis and Hemp Act] to be passed," he said. "Because right now, anyone can buy and sell cannabis anywhere."

Although the purpose of decriminalising cannabis is geared towards medical use and the economy, people are likely to mix cannabis in food or come up with products which unsuspecting people may consume.

Dr Taejing Siripanich, secretary-general of the Don't Drive Drunk Foundation, told the Bangkok Post that he is concerned about road accidents caused by motorists under the influence of cannabis.

"I'm concerned about the repercussions of consuming cannabis while driving a vehicle as it will affect driving capability," he said.

"We have campaigned [against drunk driving] for more than 30 years, but daily accidents still happen because of drunk driving."

"Now we have ganja, and we do not have a law to [control it]," he added. "I think the punishment should be heavier than the one given to those driving under the influence of alcohol."

Rasmon Kalayasiri, director of the Centre for Addiction Study at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, said she has not seen any measures to help prevent the abuse of cannabis.

Moreover, there is no law nor regulation controlling cannabis use in food, she said, noting that excessive amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, mixed in ordinary food can make people intoxicated.

"What I am concerned about the most is cannabis use among adolescents as it is toxic and could damage brain cells," she said.

"There is no clear evidence proving that cannabis use is a [gateway drug] but parents should pay attention to their children [by encouraging them] to stay away from the plant."

She said her team found that the government's cannabis policy has encouraged youths to use cannabis.

The study found that 1% of adolescents used cannabis in 2019 but the number increased to 2% in 2020 and 2.5% last year.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also expressed concerns over the use of cannabis, saying the decriminalisation of the plant is not for recreational purposes.

Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the prime minister has heard the concerns and suggestions of many sectors over the matter.

He said Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul -- who spearheaded the kingdom's cannabis decriminalisation bid -- is chairing a panel discussing the national cannabis policy to ensure its use stays in line with the government's medical purpose plan.

"The premier has reiterated [the plan] to building an understanding that cannabis [decriminalisation] is not for recreational purposes," Mr Thanakorn said.

"The government must reduce people's concerns as [cannabis] will impact health."

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