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Thai Public Health Minister Dismisses Cannabis Protests as Government Reconsiders Reclassification

Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin has downplayed the significance of recent protests against the potential relisting of cannabis as a narcotic drug. Around 300 pro-cannabis protesters, led by Prasitthichai Nunual of the People’s Network for Cannabis Legalisation in Thailand, gathered outside Government House to voice their opposition.

Somsak acknowledged the protesters' constitutional rights to express their views and emphasized that the Thai prime minister has not issued any special instructions regarding the protest or cannabis regulation. Despite the tension, the Pheu Thai Party minister affirmed the government's support for the medicinal use of cannabis and its economic benefits. He assured that business operators would have ample time to adjust to any changes, minimizing the impact of potential relisting.

When questioned about the necessity of a bill to regulate cannabis use if the plant is relisted as a narcotic drug, Somsak stated that discussions are ongoing. He stressed the importance of adhering to current regulations until any changes are officially made.

Cannabis was decriminalized in 2022 after the Bhumjaithai Party made it a key campaign policy ahead of the 2019 election. This move occurred before the necessary legislation to regulate its use was in place, raising concerns about potential substance abuse, especially among younger individuals. A cannabis and hemp bill backed by the Bhumjaithai Party passed its first reading in the previous parliament but was rejected in the second.

With the Pheu Thai-led government considering the relisting of cannabis as a narcotic drug, there is speculation that a law to control the plant’s use may be deemed unnecessary. Prasitthichai, speaking on behalf of advocacy groups, stated they would continue to pressure the government into regulating cannabis use.

“If the government insists on reversing the decision, we’re demanding a public consultation process to be formed. It’s no worse than tobacco or alcohol and has medicinal properties,” Prasitthichai said.

Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister, and leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, Anutin Charnvirakul, expressed that the government should consider both sides of the argument. When asked about the possibility of the Public Health Ministry only seeking to control parts of the cannabis plant, such as flowers, he redirected the question to the public health minister, according to the Bangkok Post.

As Thailand's government contemplates the relisting of cannabis as a narcotic drug, the ongoing protests and debates highlight the complexities of cannabis regulation. The outcome of these discussions will significantly impact the future of cannabis use and its economic implications in Thailand.

Do you believe the economic benefits of cannabis legalization outweigh the potential risks of relisting it as a narcotic drug?

  • Yes, the economic benefits are more significant.

  • No, the risks of substance abuse are too high.

  • I'm not sure.


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