Anutin grilled over pot law
Move breaks treaties, argues opposition
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul yesterday defended the decriminalisation of cannabis, insisting the plant was legalised for health and medicinal purposes, not recreation.
The Bhumjaithai Party leader stood accused by the opposition of pushing through the party's election campaign pledge without due forethought which has raised concerns about misuse as well as the potential violation of international laws ratified by Thailand.
Effective from June 9, cannabis is no longer on the Type 5 narcotics list, and Mr Anutin was the first to be grilled as the House of Representatives kicked off the four-day no-confidence debate yesterday with Deputy Pheu Thai leader and chief opposition whip Sutin Klungsang leading the attack on the controversial policy.
The Pheu Thai veteran also took Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to task for embracing the Bhumjaithai Party policy, which they argued broke a number of international treaties as well as flying in the face of the country's constitution.
Mr Sutin said the cannabis policy violated the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which Thailand ratified.
The move also defied Section 66 of the constitution, which requires the country to cooperate with international organisations and protect the public interest, according to the Pheu Thai veteran.
Mr Sutin said the government must weigh the pros and cons of this policy while the plant remains illegal in other countries with strict regulations on imports.
In response, Mr Anutin said the medicinal cannabis was part of the government policy statement delivered in the House of Representatives and legalisation of the plant had always been intended for use in a medical setting.
He stressed that measures to return control of its use to the state have now been introduced while a new bill on the matter is deliberated in parliament.
"There are no loopholes and the bill is being examined by the House committee. I still think the country can have a law to effectively control cannabis use," argued Mr Anutin.
Citing media reports, Mr Sutin said a firm affiliated with Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc (Stec), recently announced a plan to invest in a hemp business.
But an asset management firm hired to manage Mr Anutin's assets holds shares in Sino-Thai and this could constitute a conflict of interests, argued Mr Sutin. Mr Anutin did not comment on the connection.