Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew plans to launch a public hearing on a draft of a new ministerial regulation on drug possession, specifically focussing on "ya ba" pills, the methamphetamine drug mixed with caffeine.
The move is part of a government effort to separate drug users from dealers or manufacturers to better enable treatment for addicts.
Dr Cholnan yesterday told the media he wants to first listen to people's opinions on the regulation before he submits it to the cabinet for approval.
According to the proposed regulation, those who possess less than five methamphetamine pills will be viewed as drug users in need of treatment. Currently, those who possess 10 pills or less are considered drug users rather than those involved in the trade.
However, he added that drug users found with more than five of the pills under the proposed regulations still can be regarded as someone needing treatment and will not face drug-related charges if they voluntarily undergo a rehabilitation process.
Under the draft, if the offender is found to be a drug dealer, he or she will face jail and a fine.
"The hearing may be launched on a Public Health Ministry website," said Dr Cholnan.
"Authorities may take around two weeks to gather and review all comments on the website before submitting the matter to the cabinet for approval."
A committee is vetting the draft of the regulation, and once that is done, the public hearing will begin, he said.
Earlier, Dr Cholnan explained the principle of the draft regulation is that everyone found to possess the pills with intent to use or distribute will face legal action.
For example, using meth pills is punishable by one year in jail and a fine of 20,000 baht; possessing one meth pill carries two years in jail and a fine of 40,000 baht; and trading one meth pill carries a maximum term of 15 years in jail and may be fined a million baht.
However, there is also a belief that people can change through rehabilitation, he said.
"If drug users are caught with one meth pill, and they voluntarily undergo the rehab process completely, they will be freed from guilt and get a certificate. But if they fail to comply and run away, they will face legal action," he said.