Thai health minister faces backlash over new cannabis control bill

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew’s recent approval of a fresh draft of the cannabis and hemp control bill sparked a wave of criticism from pro-legalisation activists in Thailand, who called the move a betrayal of his commitment to public consultation.

Prasitchai Nunual, who serves as the secretary-general for Thailand’s Cannabis Future Network, shared his disappointment on Facebook, accusing the minister of breaking his pledge to open the draft to public discourse before submitting it to the Cabinet.

Prasitchai stressed the importance of public involvement in policy drafting to guarantee fact-based, scientifically sound outcomes, rather than policies influenced by political agendas.

“We haven’t yet seen the contents of the bill, but we suspect based on the minister’s media interview that several articles may lack factual grounding, he shared on social media.”

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Prasitchai also highlighted the government’s inconsistent approach to regulating cannabis, methamphetamine pills, and alcoholic beverages. Despite being legally recognised as a herb, the new draft stipulates that cannabis usage will necessitate a doctor’s prescription. In contrast, possession of up to five methamphetamine pills, a classified narcotic, is not deemed a criminal offence.

The secretary-general urged the Public Health Ministry to enhance its officials’ comprehension of cannabis, methamphetamine, and alcohol to create a more effective control framework. He warned that if the ministry allowed political interests to dictate its policy instead of relying on facts, further steps would be taken.

Daycha Siripatra, Khaokwan Foundation President, supported Nunual’s sentiment, highlighting inconsistencies in the control framework.

According to Siripatra, the Public Health Ministry’s attempt to regulate cannabis similarly to tobacco and alcohol is flawed. He pointed out that last year, tobacco and alcohol were responsible for over 100,000 and 40,000 deaths respectively.

Despite these substances’ proven detrimental effects on personal and public health, they are permitted for recreational use. In stark contrast, cannabis, which has not been associated with any fatalities, will be barred from recreational use under the proposed legislation.

Most people think that the new bill serves not the public interest, but the interests of certain groups facing significant sales decline as people turn to cannabis for relief from symptoms such as pain or insomnia, Siripatra explained.

On his part, Minister Cholnan clarified that the proposed bill prohibits recreational cannabis use and that in-home medical use of the substance must adhere to the correct procedures, reported Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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