By KHANITTHA THEPPACHORN
THE CABINET will next Tuesday deliberate a shortened bill on legalising marijuana for medical use.
The new version of the bill was proposed yesterday, and supporters reckon it will become law as early as next month.
“This bill will only have 17 Articles,” Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Juntong, who is also the justice minister, said yesterday.
He said the committee on legalising the medical use of marijuana and kratom leaves (Mitragyna speciosa) and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) had suggested that 17 Articles from two previously proposed drug laws could be used to prepare a shorter bill for the legalisation of marijuana. This suggestion was taken up.
When a bill is short, relevant authorities need less time for deliberation.
Prajin said that though the bill features just 17 Articles, it would be comprehensive enough to allow plantation and possession of marijuana.
“Only doctors, pharmacies and patients who need to use marijuana will be allowed to possess the drug,” Prajin said, adding that strict controls will be put in place, such as requiring patients to carry certification to prove they were prescribed marijuana.
“The amount of marijuana one can have in possession will also be limited,” he said.
He added that the Food and Drug Administration, the Public Health Ministry and the Office of Narcotics Control Board will work together to control the growing and use of cannabis when the bill is legislated.
The scope of the bill is larger than the Public Health Ministry’s plan to declare marijuana as a narcotic in the same class as morphine – which means it can be used for patients.
Over the past few months, Prajin has been pushing hard for the quick legalisation of marijuana for medical use.
At one point, he even considered asking Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to invoke his special powers as National Council for Peace and Order chief to push the bill through.
However, efforts to legalise cannabis for medical use have progressed significantly since then.
NLA member Somchai Swangkarn said yesterday that the assembly would likely need just 45 days to deliberate the shorter bill. “This means the NLA should be able to clear the bill by around December 21,” he said. Somchai said Prayut hoped to expedite marijuana legalisation for the benefit of patients.
According to several doctors, marijuana can be used to manage pain from nerve damage and cancer, nausea from chemotherapy and loss of appetite among HIV patients. It is also helpful for seizures and chronic neuro-inflammation.
There are, however, lingering concerns about whether the authorities will be able to efficiently control marijuana once it is allowed for patients to use at home.