Calls grow for tougher rules on cannabis

Calls grow for tougher rules on cannabis

Lack of clarity leads to abuse by minors

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, right, tries a cannabis-infused product at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province in July. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, right, tries a cannabis-infused product at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province in July. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Health promotion networks are calling on the government to tighten its cannabis regulations until authorities take action to prevent its abuse by the nation's youth.

The call was voiced at a seminar jointly organised by a number of health groups, which included the Northern Youth Health Promotion group, Youth Phitsanulok, Children and Youth Council, along with a number of organisations working with children and adolescents in the lower North.

Among the speakers at the forum were Prasitchai Noonuan, a member of a House committee vetting the cannabis and hemp bill; StopDrink Network manager Theera Watcharapranee; Child, Youth and Family Foundation secretary-general Chuwit Chantaros, and Youth Network coordinator Teerapat Kahawong.

Many of the speakers were concerned about the ease with which youths and adolescents can access cannabis, after the plant was removed from the list of narcotics on June 9.

Sittipong Phumchan, a coordinator of Youth Phitsanulok, said that while cannabis and hemp are no longer considered narcotics, the government has yet to amend a number of related laws which could lead to accidental consumption by minors.

"Given the absence of rules on labelling, many consumers actually have no idea how much THC [tetrahydrocannabinol -- cannabis' main psychoactive agent] they are consuming," he said, noting under current regulations, only products containing less than 0.2% THC by weight can be legally consumed and sold.

"In some cases, minors were able to purchase cannabis themselves, which underscores the need to ramp up restrictions on their sales," he said.

Mr Prasitchai, however, said the public debate so far has focused on the negative aspects of cannabis decriminalisation. He called on all stakeholders concerned to promote a better understanding of the plant.

The House is set to deliberate on the cannabis bill, which focuses on ways to limit access, cultivation, sale and use of the plant in November, after it struck down an earlier version of the bill.

Supporters of the bill fear the legislation, which is the flagship policy of the coalition Bhumjaithai Party, might not be passed before the parliament's term expires in March next year.

Pornphan Thapsaeng, coordinator of Youth Health Promotion Networks in the lower North, said the network urged a thorough assessment of cannabis' impact on children. The network is opposed to the online sale of cannabis, as well as its sale at vending machines.

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