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Thailand’s Battle Over Recreational Cannabis Explodes!

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Within the bustling scene of Khao San Road, located in the heart of Bangkok, one stall that won’t go unnoticed is the one dealing in cannabis products. As of July 2022, the busy hive hints at a unique blend of commerce and controversy, captured by a photograph shared by the Bangkok Post. The narrative woven around this shot isn’t purely about a curious market, though. Instead, it finds footing in the controversy surrounding cannabis use, and more specifically, the use of parts of the plant high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The perspective of one central character in this tale is pivotal. Dr Rasmon Kalayasiri, the director of the Centre of Addiction Studies, is a significant voice in the kingdom’s dialogue around cannabis. She sides with the notion that recreational cannabis use should be completely banned. Her conviction echoes that of Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, who thinks the draft bill about cannabis and hemp—introduced by his predecessor Anutin Charnvirakul—needs amending.

To flesh out this storyline, it’s crucial to note that the aforementioned bill got rejected by the preceding House of Representatives. Just prior to hitting the House for deliberation, a ministerial regulation came into play, striking off cannabis and hemp from the List of Narcotics under the Narcotics Act. At this stage, they were categorically excluded from the list as Category 5 narcotics.

Dr Rasmon, a renowned figure in her field, approves of Dr Cholnan’s bid to revise the draft bill. Their vision allows the use of cannabis and hemp for medicinal and healthcare uses strictly. The scope of this plan excludes any recreational uses and also dismisses the proposal of permitting the cultivation of up to 15 cannabis plants per household. A pivotal part of their proposal also covers reinstating flowering parts of cannabis, which are high in THC, into the narcotics list.

Medical personnel are in line with using cannabis for medicinal purposes, notes Dr Rasmon, given the mounting evidence of its therapeutic benefits. However, her concern lies in the rising number of health complications among users, especially children, who indulge in cannabis recreationally. “Scientific findings from 2019 to 2022 reveal an alarming ten-fold increase in cannabis use amongst youths between 18 to 19 years, escalating from 0.9% to 9.7%”, she underscores, though its recreational use is technically unlawful. This points towards a glaring loophole in the existing law that’s blatantly inept.

Dr Rasmon reasons that a new law should be legislated to keep a firm leash on the use of cannabis and hemp. This law would eliminate their recreational use. Until such a law comes into existence, the recommendation remains to reinstate cannabis parts high in THC content into the list of narcotics. This argument is grounded on a practical principle—an effective regulation approach is necessary to counter risks associated with high THC exposure.

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