Thailand may legalise recreational use of ganja in future: minister

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Despite repeated calls by doctors to suspend the decriminalisation of ganja, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul (pic) hinted at the opposite – further legalising the plant for recreational use.

Anutin dropped the hint on Wednesday (Aug 17) during the “Meet the Press: Cannabis” event held by the Public Relations Department.

Anutin, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party which championed its free ganja use campaign during the previous election, said a new cannabis bill may be amended to allow recreational use if the people accept it and know how to use it safely.

“In Thailand for the time being, we don’t advocate recreational use, but that will not be definite, it can be amended when people have full understanding on how to use it correctly and it might come, but not now,” Anutin said during the event.

He also said the cannabis bill, which is being vetted by a special House committee, will be sent back to the House this week for the second and third readings.

Several groups of doctors and medical personnel have called on the government to suspend the decriminalisation of ganja pending an enactment of the cannabis law.

They voiced concern that during the vacuum period and without a law to govern the use of ganja, youths and children may abuse its use by consuming it as a drug or smoking it and suffer from adverse effects.

More than 850 medics at Ramathibodi Hospital have joined a campaign to halt the legalisation of ganja until controls on cannabis usage – especially among children – are implemented.

But Anutin on Wednesday argued that legalisation of medical cannabis has not been harmful to society as feared by doctors.

He pointed out that during the past two months after cannabis was decriminalised, only 60 people were admitted to hospital under supervision of the Public Health Ministry.

This was just one per day on average, which was a very tiny percentage compared to Thailand’s population of 70 million, he pointed out.

Anutin also noted several more countries plan to follow in Thailand's footsteps by decriminalising cannabis.

He cited Germany in particular, saying the European nation aims to legalise the plant for recreational use as many there were using it anyway.

“The German government feels that once cannabis is fully legalised, quality can be controlled, people will become safer and it will cut the number of ways for making money in ‘dark’ markets,” Anutin said.

The public health minister also cited the case of Canada, saying the legalisation of ganja four years ago has generated revenue of €2 billion (72 billion baht) for the country per year.

“Once more world markets open, Thailand will have bigger markets to export ganja products to,” Anutin believed.

“It is expected that after Germany legalises it, other EU nations would follow suit,” he added.

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