PM: Cannabis to be relisted as a narcotic by year-end
text size

PM: Cannabis to be relisted as a narcotic by year-end

Srettha takes tough line on drugs, also disagrees with ‘five-pill rule’ for speed possession

(Bangkok Post File Photo)
(Bangkok Post File Photo)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Wednesday reiterated his determination that cannabis would be relisted as a narcotic by the end of 2024, as he announced a get-tough approach to illicit drugs.

Writing on his X account, Mr Srettha said he wanted the Ministry of Public Health to issue a regulation allowing only medical and health usage of cannabis.

Thailand in 2022 became one of the first countries in Asia to decriminalise marijuana. While the intent was to promote medicinal use, recreational use skyrocketed in the absence of a comprehensive law.

The previous government failed in its attempts to pass a cannabis bill. The Ministry of Public Health has drafted a new bill that the former minister, Cholnan Srikaew, hoped to get through Parliament before the end of 2024.

The bill championed by Dr Cholnan, who lost his job in last week’s cabinet reshuffle, would clearly spell out approved medicinal uses of the plant, as well as what forms of consumption would be banned

The new minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, said this week that he wanted to listen to people’s opinions first before making a final decision on the future of cannabis. He said the process would not take long.

Mr Srettha, meanwhile, declared that the drug problem in the country is a major national agenda item and all agencies must work together to solve it. He said he wanted to see “clear results” within 90 days.

“Drugs are a problem that destroys the future of the country. Many young people are addicted. We have to work fast, to confiscate assets (of drug dealers) and expand treatment,” he said.

He also said he disagreed with a widely criticised health ministry regulation on methamphetamine possession, which has been dubbed the “five-pill rule”. The aim of the rule, also introduced by Dr Cholnan, was to more clearly separate users from dealers.

The National Narcotics Act says only that a “small amount” should be considered as being for personal consumption, without specifying a number.

Dr Cholnan said that people in possession of small amounts of methamphetamine for personal use should not be prosecuted if they agreed to seek treatment. The regulation specified five pills or less.

Mr Srettha made his position clear: “Set the amount to be assumed to be in possession for consumption to be one tablet instead of specifying a small quantity,” he wrote.

The move to re-criminalise cannabis, meanwhile, comes despite rapid growth of a domestic retail market for marijuana, with thousands of shops and businesses springing up in the past two years. One study projected that the industry would be worth up to $1.2 billion by 2025.

Changing the rules again would be a bad move for the economy and deal a big blow to small businesses and consumers, said Prasitchai Nunual, secretary-general of the Cannabis Future Network.

“Many people have been growing cannabis and opening cannabis shops. These will have to close down,” he told Reuters.

“If scientific results show that cannabis is worse then alcohol and cigarettes then they can relist it as a narcotic. If cannabis is less harmful, they should list cigarettes and alcohol as narcotics too.”

Do you like the content of this article?