Tawee wades in on legal weed debate

Tawee wades in on legal weed debate

A man browses various dried cannabis buds offered in a shop on Khao San Road. (File photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
A man browses various dried cannabis buds offered in a shop on Khao San Road. (File photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

The Justice Ministry has urged the Public Health Ministry to classify cannabis flower buds and extracts from the plant as a narcotic substance until a law regulating the use of cannabis is passed.

Justice Minister Pol Col Tawee Sodsong said the proposal aims to address concerns regarding the use of cannabis in the absence of legislation to regulate its use and prevent its abuse.

The abuse of cannabis by people under 18 is one of the prime concerns voiced by people, and the findings of a public forum on Jan 29 on the delisting of cannabis and kratom indicate cannabis use does not align with the legal amendments intended to support its medical use and research purposes, he said.

Due to the lack of a comprehensive law, cannabis is widely used for recreational purposes and easily available online, which exposes people under 18 to the herb and encourages them to try or experiment with other narcotic substances, he said.

Moreover, a Centre for Addiction Studies (CADS) study shows a sharp increase in cannabis usage among people aged 18-19, he said. Foreign visitors carrying cannabis products from Thailand face arrest in other countries, indicating that cannabis is still recognised as a narcotic substance, he added.

Pol Col Tawee said the Justice Ministry is obliged to improve the laws to better protect people and the national interest and it is urging the Public Health Ministry to issue a ministerial regulation classifying cannabis flower buds and extracts as narcotics until the cannabis control law is enacted.

However, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said the ministry cannot classify cannabis flower buds as a narcotic without approval from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). To do as the justice minister suggested, the ONCB must reach a resolution first, he insisted.

"The public health minister can issue a ministerial announcement, but without the ONCB's opinions, I can't proceed," said Dr Cholnan.

The minister also clarified that the new version of the Cannabis and Hemp Control Bill to be proposed to the cabinet meeting next week does not seek to re-categorise cannabis parts as a narcotic.

He said there is currently another law on the promotion of Thai traditional medicine in which cannabis is defined as a controlled herb because of its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

The revised bill must also cover this part and it will specify which parts of the plant can be used, the manner through which they can be consumed, as well as acceptable quantities for possession, Dr Cholnan said.  "Cannabis is a controlled herb because it has THC. Currently it isn't classified as a narcotic. Only extracts with more than 0.2% THC are classified as a narcotic substance."

Prasitchai Nunual, secretary-general of the Cannabis Future Network, on Thursday voiced opposition to any attempt to classify parts of the plant as a narcotic.

He reiterated his call for the ministry to compare benefits of cannabis against alcohol, tobacco and methamphetamine and let the public decide which should be listed as a narcotic substance and which should be allowed for use.

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