Thai lawmakers last week forced the repeal of a bill to regulate wider use of cannabis because the proposed legislation did not contain enough provisions to prevent abuse for recreational purposes. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted 198 to 136 to repeal the bill and return it to the drafting committee for further review late Wednesday. The cannabis and hemp law, which passed through first reading in June and was intended to give the government more control over the industry, can now be reintroduced in November.
Wording bill was too vague to discourage recreational use
The unexpected opposition to the bill came from the main opposition party Pheu Thai and the Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition. They followed a public outcry over the explosion of shops and cafes selling cannabis products in Bangkok and other cities within three months of the country becoming the first in Asia to decriminalize cannabis.
Some members of Parliament expressed deep concern about the fact that cannabis has been removed from the list of narcotic drugs. They said there had been reports since the announcement that people who used cannabis became mentally ill and violent.
They hoped that the Ministry of Health would come up with effective measures to ensure that cannabis is really used for medical purposes.
“The bill does not control cannabis, but even promotes it, leaving room for use to deviate from medical to extreme recreational,” said Sutin Klangsang, a lawmaker from Pheu Thai, the largest party in the House of Commons. “We are afraid that children and people will smoke it and become addicted.”
Health Minister: re-criminalizing cannabis is not an option
But health minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists there is no talk of re-criminalising cannabis. Anutin is the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party who had originally pushed for the legalization of cannabis in Thailand, but later came back to it after negative stories surfaced about people who had been harmed by cannabis, saying the party only intended to make it available for medical purposes.
Anutin promised to meet with the leaders of the Democratic Party to find a compromise on their opposing views, saying that it was not a personal rivalry, but a disagreement on political points of view. The Democrats and other political parties support reclassifying cannabis as a narcotic, but Anutin says this will not happen.
“We already have public health regulations for cannabis that are still in effect, such as regulations banning smoking in public under nuisance smoking regulations. We have already prepared an objection to ending the current decriminalization period or reclassifying cannabis as a narcotic when the bill was introduced in Parliament. This is one of the reasons why the Ministry of health should speed up the announcement of the draft law on the use of cannabis.”
Anutin discouraged tourists from visiting the country solely to smoke weed for recreational purposes at a press conference last month, just two months after new laws were passed that have largely decriminalized cannabis. However, he also added that recreational use can be explored once there is a better understanding of the drug.