Second reading of cannabis bill aborted due to 'too many additions'
The House of Representatives has sent the controversial cannabis and hemp control bill back to the vetting panel because too many new sections have been added to the original draft, the opposition Pheu Thai Party said on Thursday.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Prasert Chanruangthong said the decision of the majority of MPs to return the draft to the vetting panel had nothing to do with politics or conflicts between two key ruling coalition partners – Bhumjaithai Party and Democrat Party.
On Wednesday, the House voted 198 to 136 to send the draft back to the ad hoc House panel instead of taking up the second reading as scheduled. A total of 12 MPs abstained.
The bill was sponsored by the Public Health Ministry under control of ruling coalition partner Bhumjaithai, which championed a free ganja policy during the campaign for the general election in 2019. The ministry had issued a directive to lift marijuana and hemp from the Category 5 Narcotics List before proposing the control bill to the House.
Before the House could begin the second reading, the Democrat Party announced on Wednesday that it would ask the vetting panel to take it back for amendments. The Democrats said they could not accept the vetted draft because the party saw that the version would promote growing of marijuana for recreational use.
“This is not a political issue,” Prasert clarified on Thursday.
“The ad hoc panel has finished its homework and sent it for consideration by MPs. The homework was to make a pair of shorts but MPs found that the ad hoc panel had sent back a pair of trousers.”
Prasert explained that the original draft, which had passed the first reading, had just over 40 sections but after it was vetted, the number of sections rose to over 90.
“This is an unprecedented increase in new sections during the vetting of a bill. It would have been acceptable if only four or five sections had been added but it was unusual to see over 40 new sections added to the original draft,” Prasert said.
He said had the House proceeded with the second reading, the deliberations would have been difficult because a lot changes would have had to be made.
“So, asking the panel to review the draft would be more in public interest,” Prasert added.
He said the vetting panel had gone too far to change the original draft to indirectly allow recreational use of ganja.
“Several sides have voiced opposition to the vetted draft. This is a sensitive issue and the bill will have an impact on the use of marijuana in the future,” Prasert said.
Meanwhile, Move Forward Party MP Chaithawat Tulathon said the Public Health Ministry should also scrap its directive on ganja and wait for the bill to be enacted.
Chaithawat said removing ganja from the list of narcotics without a control law in place has created a vacuum that has led to abuse of the plant.
Most Move Forward MPs voted to send the draft back to the vetting panel. Only MP Nattapon Suebsakwong voted against sending the draft back.