Smoking pot ‘may require doctor’s note’
text size

Smoking pot ‘may require doctor’s note’

Health minister Cholnan says new bill will be clear on medical uses of cannabis

A customer checks out the selection at a cannabis shop on the tourist strip of Khao San Road in Bangkok in November 2022. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
A customer checks out the selection at a cannabis shop on the tourist strip of Khao San Road in Bangkok in November 2022. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

Smoking cannabis is likely to require a permit from a doctor, according to Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, who says his new cannabis bill differs from a failed predecessor as it will be very clear on how to use the plant for medical treatment.

Dr Cholnan insisted that the bill preserves a key point that cannabis is to be used for medical treatment only, and any use for recreational purposes will not be allowed.

Consequently, he said, it is very important to make clear precisely how to use cannabis for medical purposes. The bill clearly states who can use cannabis, where and when it can be sold, and methods for selling it, depending on the part of the plant used and concentrations of CBD or THC. The former is used in many medical applications and does not make a person “high”, whereas THC does.

The minister said the bill was being drafted with participation from all stakeholders, and he welcomed suggestions from anyone concerned about people’s health.

Any cannabis plantation will require a permit from authorities and must adopt advanced agricultural practices to ensure the plants will be medical-grade. Plantations at home are not likely to continue.

When the Bhumjaithai Party pushed for liberalisation of cannabis, one of its selling points was a claim that thousands of families could make money by growing cannabis.

In the draft bill proposed last year by Bhumjaithai but never passed by the House, cannabis smoking is allowed in a private space if it is for medical treatment. But in the current version, such references have been omitted.

“If smoking is for health, we need to have a clear prescription from the doctor,” said Dr Cholnan, a physician and former hospital director from Nan.

The Ministry of Public Health has been gathering public opinion online and elsewhere on its new cannabis draft.

Civil society groups led by Prasittichai Nunual, secretary-general of the Thai Cannabis Future Network, believes the definition of recreation in the draft bill is still unclear and any interpretation is based on judgement calls by authorities, which is not fair for people.

The bill, he said, should add a clause giving the right to people to use cannabis in the family based on traditional medicine knowledge.

He also pointed out that the bill seems to place too much emphasis on taking legal action against users who violate the law, reflecting the perception that cannabis is still regarded as a dangerous drug. In his view, penalties should be similar to those associated with cigarette or alcohol use.

“The main point is that the bill will be a compass to set the direction of cannabis in the future in the country, with a principle to preserve its use under Thai traditional medicine wisdom,” said Mr Prasittichai.

“It should not have any barriers to prevent people from planting it and the bill should prevent any benefit-taking by the authorities,” he said, adding that passing the bill is important to ensure that cannabis will not be relisted as a narcotic.

The thousands of businesses that have sprung up since cannabis was decriminalised are anxiously awaiting clarity about their futures.

An ongoing regulatory vacuum, following the delisting of marijuana as a narcotic in June 2022, has led to a proliferation of dispensaries — estimated to total 6,000 — all over the country. They sell everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts containing less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound that gives users a “high” sensation.

Do you like the content of this article?