Illicit drug limit set for avoiding jail

Illicit drug limit set for avoiding jail

Ceiling announced in 'Royal Gazette'

Students at Wat Song Tham School in Samut Prakan’s Phra Pradaeng district wear paper hats with anti-drug abuse messages to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, or World Drug Day in June 2022. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Students at Wat Song Tham School in Samut Prakan’s Phra Pradaeng district wear paper hats with anti-drug abuse messages to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, or World Drug Day in June 2022. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

A ceiling has been set by the Public Health Ministry, below which people possessing illicit drugs will be regarded as drug users not liable for legal punishment.

The ceiling issued under an order signed by Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew was announced in the Royal Gazette on Feb 9.

The measure was launched in tandem with Section 107 of the Narcotics Code requiring the minister to release a ministerial regulation specifying the maximum amounts by which people can possess illicit drugs and are still regarded as users, as opposed to drug traders or traffickers who face much tougher punishment.

For example, an offender who has in his or her possession up to five meth pills or 500 milligrammes at the time of arrest is to be treated by law as a drug user. Under the law, people who harbour small amounts of an illicit drug are assumed to have the intent to consume it. They should undergo rehab and be spared imprisonment.

Dr Cholnan said the proposal was put to a public hearing over the course of two weeks. After that, it was forwarded to the cabinet for approval and then published in the Royal Gazette.

Ceilings for other popular drugs were also put in place: MDEA (a substitute amphetamine) of up to five units or 1,250 mg; heroin, up to 300 mg; LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a potent psychedelic drug, up to 100 mg; ecstasy, up to 1,250 mg.

Other celings are cocaine, up to 200 mg; opium, up to 5,000 mg; cannabis extracts with more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, up to 30 ml in liquid form; and ketamine, up to 500 mg in crystal or powder form.

The regulation will be adopted as a guideline for law enforcement officials in seeking prosecution of individuals in drug cases.

However, Dr Cholnan insisted conditions apply when considering if drug users can escape legal punishment.

First they must consent to attending a drug rehab programme. Second, they must stay for the duration and satisfy all rehab criteria and third, they must be certified as having completed rehab. The individuals must meet all three criteria before they can be spared punishment.

The minister said he has been misquoted by netizens who criticised him for taking a soft stance on drug abuse.

Meanwhile, Narcotics Suppression Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kirisak Tantinwachai said that despite the ceilings, an offender found with a small amount of drug still may be subject to heavy punishment if the circumstances of the crime warrant it.

If it could be proven they possess even a small amount of drug with the intent to trade or export, they are liable for a hefty jail term, he added.

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