Legalize cannabis totally? Not so fast

Is cannabis legalization the right way to go to take full advantage of the plant’s medicinal benefits and which, in the long run, may contribute to a country’s economy?

Let’s take a look at the Thailand experiment.

In 2018, Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalize marijuana for medicinal and industrial use.

Under Thai law, extracted cannabis content, or products for food or medicine, must contain less than 0.2 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, its main active ingredient). One can get a prescription at one of a network of approved hospitals and clinics.

Five months ago, on 8 May, Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced on Facebook that the Thai government will give away one million free cannabis plants to households across the country, starting 9 June — as part of Thailand’s plan to use cannabis as a cash crop.

Recreational use, or smoking in public, is still illegal.

However, since Anutin’s announcement, Thais have flouted the law.

A feature story on 30 August on said: “On Bangkok’s Khao San Road, streetside tables are groaning under the weight of piles of buds that far exceed the legal THC cap; in Chiang Mai, a tourist is probably sipping on a high-octane marijuana-laced cocktail; and somewhere on a Thai island, bongs are being ripped in public. Technically speaking, all of these scenarios are illegal. But up to this point at least, they’ve been tolerated.”

Nobody’s getting apprehended since the Thai government “has yet to draft legislation that regulates its trade, making buying and selling it at the moment, rather confusing.”

And then something happened. In September, Thai lawmakers shot down the marijuana bill in Parliament — triggering concerns among opposing sides.

An opinion piece on said:

“The pro-pot camp is worried the legalization of cannabis will be reversed, while others — including many doctors — are afraid that consumption of cannabis without proper controls will continue.”
“Will marijuana become illegal again?”

MPs from two major parties — the Democrats and Pheu Thai — have called for a review of the draft law’s content, but they have also suggested that it may be time to reconsider whether cannabis should be removed from the list of illegal narcotics.

“Chaithawat Tulathon, secretary-general of the opposition Move Forward Party, called on Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to cancel the decriminalization of cannabis until the Marijuana Act is implemented.”

Anutin, who heads the coalition’s Bhumjaithai Party, had promised to legalize cannabis. This means Bhumjaithai will lobby hard to guarantee that the recent legalization is not reversed.

Said the commentary: “The party’s pro-marijuana stance has won the support of many groups in Thailand. These include the People’s Cannabis Network, which described the House of Representatives rejection of the bill during its second reading as a ‘big disappointment.’”

“MPs should realize there are people in their areas who require cannabis for health reasons,” the network’s key man Thanachoke Tienrungroj said.

The reason the bill was thumbed down, Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Prasert Chanruangthong said, was “the bill had only 46 articles in the first reading, but that suddenly grew to twice as many in the second reading.”

“I have to say the addition of more than 40 new articles is unprecedented. We have to exercise caution. We have no objection to marijuana being used for medical reasons but we are worried about recreational use.”

Meanwhile, a United Nations report on said: “In North America, legalized cannabis on a state level — especially new potent products containing elevated levels of high-inducing THC — appears to have increased daily usage, particularly among young adults.

“In addition to increasing tax revenues, it has also caused a reported surge among people with psychiatric disorders, increased suicides and hospitalizations while generally reducing possession arrests.”
Whoa. In such scenarios, caution is key.

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