Royal Thai Police baffled by pot memo
Rules on permits for weed sow confusion
The Ministry of Public Health recalled an urgent letter shortly after it was sent to the Royal Thai Police (RTP) asking them to take legal action against those who failed to seek permits related to the use of cannabis.
The recall was apparently prompted by the RTP's reaction.
In the letter to the national police chief, deputy permanent secretary for Public Health Narong Saiwong said cannabis has been listed as a controlled herb under the Traditional Medicine Wisdom Protection and Promotion Act.
The plant was put on the list of controlled herbs in mid-June after it was removed from the country's narcotics list on June 9 to control its use. However, a more detailed law on cannabis and hemp is still pending.
As a result, its usage is being regulated under Section 46 of the act, and police and officials are authorised to take legal action against four groups who fail to seek permits. They comprise those who carry out research studies on cannabis, export cannabis, distribute the plant or process it for commercial purposes.
However, RTP spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyot Thepjamnong said there are certain issues the RTP has to clarify with the Ministry of Public Health in regard to the letter.
He said the national police chief found contradictions that must be addressed.
"To prevent public confusion and ensure effective enforcement, the national police chief has asked the RTP's Law and Litigation Office to straighten some issues out with the ministry," Pol Maj Gen Yingyot said.
Yongyot Thammawut, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, said a sub-committee agreed the list of controlled herbs should be revised to cover only cannabis flowers.
He said if the whole plant is listed as a controlled herb, cannabis growers and those who use other parts such as leaves, roots or stems will be affected. After the list is revised, it will be submitted to the minister for endorsement.
"For the time being, authorities will resort to warnings rather than making arrests ... unless the plant is sold for smoking.
"The ministry has made clear its stance on the recreational use of cannabis. Medicinal cannabis will proceed and misuse must be prevented," he said.
According to the ministry, permits must be sought in line with its 2016 directive on the research, import, distribution or procession of controlled herbs for commercial purposes.
Mr Yongyot and chiefs of provincial health offices are in charge of processing permits.
Before the letter was recalled, Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn welcomed the Ministry of Public Health's action, saying it should have sent the letter to the RTP earlier.
He wrote on Facebook that most activities related to the use of cannabis are illegal unless they are permitted under Section 46 of the act.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul reiterated on Wednesday that the draft law being examined by the House does not permit recreational use of the plant.
He said the letter involves the use of cannabis flowers and insisted that drying cannabis flowers for smoking is illegal, not to mention that it is against the excise regulations on cigarettes.
"Selling cannabis flowers requires a permit and it is impossible for us to grant permits for smoking. Don't make people devalue cannabis.
"What would happen to those using cannabis for treatment, or those investing in a business, if the delisting was cancelled?"
Mr Anutin said Tom Kruesopon, who founded the Golden Triangle Health, a leading developer and manufacturer of hemp and cannabis in Thailand, will face the music if he has violated any laws.
He was responding to criticism that he has ties to the businessman.