Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul yesterday stressed the need for a specific law to control the use of cannabis following its decriminalisation, amid growing calls from several quarters to have the plant re-listed as a narcotic.
"The government has a free cannabis policy, but that doesn't mean there won't be any measures to control its use," he said, in response to questions raised by lawmakers in the House of Representatives on why the government decided to press ahead with its cannabis policies despite the growing opposition against them.
He also said the market for cannabis-based products is worth around 28 billion baht, and that value is projected to grow to over 50 billion baht in the next three years.
"If cannabis is re-listed as a narcotic again as sought by some, this economic boost will disappear, along with the public's confidence in the government's [cannabis] policies," he said.
The public health minister went on to say the government moved to decriminalise cannabis in a bid to unlock and develop traditional medical knowledge that has been developed and passed down over generations -- noting there are over 300 cannabis-based concoctions which would again be at risk of disappearing if the plant were to be re-classified as a narcotic.
"No organisation, public or private, would want to be involved in efforts to preserve and further develop this local wisdom [out of fear of prosecution]," he said, noting the plant's decriminalisation was necessary to support the research and development of cannabis-based medicines.
Furthermore, Mr Anutin said the move created a new industry that has contributed significantly to the economy by providing employment and income to many.
The bill on cannabis and hemp, which is now awaiting its second and third readings in the House, will become an effective legal mechanism to prevent the plant's use beyond its intended purposes, he said.