Weed advocates slam control bill

Weed advocates slam control bill

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew
Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew

Advocates of cannabis legalisation blasted Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew's decision to endorse a new draft of the cannabis and hemp control bill without consulting the civil sector as he had promised.

Prasitchai Nunual, secretary-general of Thailand's Cannabis Future Network, said on Facebook that the minister failed to keep his promise that the draft would be put up for public discussion before it was passed on to the cabinet.

He said involving members of the public in the policy drafting process will ensure the outcome is based on scientific facts and evidence instead of being driven by political interests.

"We have yet to see the contents of the bill, but according to the minister's media interview, we believe several articles aren't grounded in facts," he wrote.

He also pointed out inconsistencies in the government's efforts to control cannabis, methamphetamine pills and alcoholic beverages.

For instance, while cannabis is legally considered a herb, its use will require a doctor's recommendation under the new draft. Meanwhile, the possession of up to five methamphetamine pills isn't considered a criminal offence despite it being classified as a narcotic.

Mr Prasitchai called on the Public Health Ministry to improve its officials' understanding of cannabis, methamphetamine and alcohol so they can draw up a more effective control framework.

"Methamphetamine has ruined people's lives, but people can possess it. Drinking is [indirectly] promoted by extending the operating hours of entertainment venues. If the ministry's policy is dictated by political interests instead of facts, we will take further steps," he said.

Daycha Siripatra, president of the Khaokwan Foundation, also echoed Mr Prasitchai's opinions, saying there are inconsistencies in the control framework.

The Public Health Ministry seeks to regulate the use of cannabis in a similar manner to tobacco and alcohol, which last year killed more than 100,000 people and 40,000 people, respectively, he said.

Despite the harm and risks tobacco and alcohol pose to individual and public health, both substances are allowed for recreational use. In contrast, cannabis, which has not been linked to any deaths, will be prohibited for recreational use, he added.

"Most people believe that the new bill isn't for the public interest, but for the interests of some groups whose sales drop significantly after people switch to cannabis to alleviate symptoms like pain or sleeplessness," he said.

Dr Cholnan said on Saturday that under the bill, cannabis cannot be used for recreational purposes, and the use of cannabis at home for medical purposes must be done in accordance with the right procedures.

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