In a recent development, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew faces fervent criticism from cannabis legalization proponents for his endorsement of a new draft bill on cannabis and hemp control. The controversy stems from accusations that the minister has reneged on his promise to involve the civil sector in the decision-making process.
Prasitchai Nunual, head of Thailand’s Cannabis Future Network, expressed his disappointment on social media, highlighting the minister’s failure to fulfill the commitment of opening the draft for public discussion before its submission to the cabinet. Emphasizing the significance of public participation, Prasitchai asserted the need for decisions rooted in scientific evidence rather than political agendas.
The contents of the bill remain undisclosed, prompting concerns from Prasitchai about potential inaccuracies based on the minister’s media interviews. He also pointed out the government’s inconsistent approach in regulating cannabis, methamphetamine pills, and alcoholic drinks.
An apparent contradiction raised by Prasitchai is the legal classification of cannabis as a herb while requiring a medical prescription in the new bill. In contrast, the possession of a small number of methamphetamine pills, classified as a narcotic, is not criminalized. Prasitchai urged the Public Health Ministry to enhance officials’ understanding of cannabis, methamphetamine, and alcohol to establish a more effective regulatory framework.
Drawing attention to the perceived inconsistency, Prasitchai questioned the ministry’s approach, stating, “Methamphetamine has ruined people’s lives, but people can possess it. Drinking is [indirectly] promoted by extending the operating hours of entertainment venues.” He warned of potential further actions if the ministry’s policy appears dictated by political interests rather than factual considerations.
Daycha Siripatra, head of the Khaokwan Foundation, supported Prasitchai’s views, highlighting discrepancies in the regulatory system. Siripatra noted that the Public Health Ministry intends to manage cannabis similarly to tobacco and alcohol, substances responsible for significant deaths last year. Despite known dangers, the recreational use of tobacco and alcohol remains permitted, while cannabis, with no associated fatalities, faces a proposed ban for recreational purposes.
Siripatra suggested that the new bill might serve specific interests, implying that it’s not in the public’s best interest. He mentioned, “Most people believe that the new bill isn’t for the public interest, but for the interests of some groups whose sales drop significantly after people switch to cannabis to alleviate symptoms like pain or sleeplessness.”
In response to the criticism, Dr. Cholnan reiterated that the bill prohibits recreational cannabis use and outlines specific procedures for home-based medical use of cannabis. The unfolding debate underscores the complexities and differing perspectives surrounding Thailand’s evolving stance on cannabis regulation.