Anutin defends pot decriminalisation

Anutin defends pot decriminalisation

Chadchart claims man overdosed, died

People queue up to buy cannabis from a mobile stall on Khao San Road in Bangkok on Tuesday. The drug, which was selling for 700 baht a gramme, is being sought following its recent removal from the illegal narcotics list. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
People queue up to buy cannabis from a mobile stall on Khao San Road in Bangkok on Tuesday. The drug, which was selling for 700 baht a gramme, is being sought following its recent removal from the illegal narcotics list. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has defended the decriminalisation of cannabis following the death of a man who suffered heart failure after taking what was described by Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt as an overdose, saying the issue should not be politicised.

Mr Chadchart said on Tuesday that City Hall was concerned about the ramifications of the liberalisation of cannabis.

He said four patients who developed adverse reactions after taking cannabis were admitted to hospitals under the supervision of City Hall's medical service department, and that one of them had been pronounced dead.

"A 51-year-old man was pronounced dead at Charoenkrung Pracharak Hospital. He died of heart failure. He overdosed on cannabis," Mr Chadchart said.

A source at City Hall said heart failure was identified as the official cause of the death of the 51-year-old, not an overdose.

However, relatives of the man said he had a history of taking cannabis, the source said.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people cannot overdose on cannabis in the way that they can overdose on, say, opioids, and there have been no reported deaths resulting solely from cannabis use.

Mr Anutin reiterated that the primary aim of decriminalisation is mainly for medical purposes while warning against the unhealthy use of cannabis.

"The report [of the man's death] may have had an ulterior motive... This is not about politics. When the bill on cannabis was tabled to parliament, it received support from both MPs from the coalition government and the opposition," Mr Anutin said.

Pushing through decriminalisation of the use of cannabis was among Bhumjaithai's flagship campaign policies for the 2019 election.

Senator Somchai Sawangkarn on Tuesday warned that if the cannabis and hemp bill was not passed during the current parliamentary session, it would have had to wait another year for the next parliament. That would leave a vacuum for curbs on the recreational use of cannabis needed to protect the young, he added.

He said the cabinet should issue an executive decree to deal with any uncontrolled and irresponsible use of cannabis pending the passage of the bill.

Mr Anutin said the executive decree is not necessary because the Ministry of Public Health has issued an announcement on the use of cannabis pending the bill's passage.

He added that a ban on smoking cannabis in public will also be announced in the Royal Gazette shortly.

"Problems occur due to the abuse of cannabis. This is not the aim of liberalising the use of the plant. We want to promote medical use and boost the income of growers. But efforts are being made to politicise the matter and discredit the policy of Bhumjaithai," the party leader said.

The de-listing of hemp and cannabis from the government's Category 5 narcotics list took effect last Thursday following the publication of a Ministry of Public Health announcement in the Royal Gazette.

Consequently, the production, import, export, distribution, consumption and possession of cannabis and hemp are legalised. But cannabis oil extracts containing more than 0.2% of the THC are still considered a Category 5 substance, regulated by narcotics control and suppression laws.


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