Marijuana will be relisted as drug by yearend: Somsak

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2024

New public health minister does about turn in his stance on cannabis

Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said on Monday that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has instructed him to return marijuana to the list of Category 5 Narcotics by yearend.

To do this, he said, the Public Health Ministry will have to amend its relevant directives and announcements.

Cannabis was removed from the list of narcotics two years ago under a Public Health Ministry directive when it was run by Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul under the tenure of then-PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

While campaigning for votes during the 2019 elections, Bhumjaithai promised to decriminalise marijuana so that it could be used for medical purposes and as a cash crop.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Somsak said comprehensive talks among relevant government agencies were required to determine if the entire marijuana plant would be added to the narcotics list or only parts that have psychoactive effects.

He said an international treaty on narcotics controls marijuana flowers and extracts, but not seeds and fibrous parts.

Somsak added that if the Public Health Ministry took action without discussing it with other agencies, it would severely damage those practising traditional medicine and conducting research.

“We need to collect comprehensive information. If the information is not complete, then there could be damages,” Somsak added.

Somsak was justice minister under Prayut’s government, and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), which was under his supervision, backed the removal of marijuana from the Category 5 drugs list.

When asked why he did not oppose the decriminalisation of cannabis two years ago, Somsak said it was his duty to support it as a coalition partner.

He said only the Foreign Ministry had expressed opposition to the decriminalisation of marijuana at the ONCB meeting, adding that neither ONCB or police representatives had said anything at the meeting. However, he said, they loudly expressed their disagreement after the meeting.

“We had to deal with the coalition partners with respect,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a group of marijuana advocates declared they would take to the streets on June 9 if the plant is relisted as a drug and Somsak does not clarify his stance on the subject.

Somsak said he would be happy to explain his stance to the group, adding that marijuana’s standing as a medical herb will not be affected.