The man credited with bringing legal cannabis smoking to Thailand last night stood firm and said it was the right thing to do in the face of questions about its consequences.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Anutin Charnvirakul said he was right to engineer the sudden and complete change, despite the fact that it happened before any basic regulations were in place.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID issue, the cannabis law cannot be terminated parallel to the date we freed cannabis from drugs. I expect the next question from the public to be, “Why didn’t I wait until the law was enforced?” Impossible. No sir. I won’t wait. I will never be late Even if I could go back in time, Anutin said in English.
The Public Health Minister and Bhumjaithai Party Chairman spoke 27 days after cannabis was removed from the list of controlled substances and amid a backlash fueled by the tabloids that it moved too far, too quickly.
Despite these criticisms, Anutin repeatedly insisted that the only goal of decriminalizing cannabis was to improve people’s well-being and quality of life.
Because there were patients waiting to be treated with herbal remedies. “There were farmers waiting for the harvest and getting their first crop waiting for their entry during the current economic difficulties,” the 55-year-old politician said. “There were small and medium-sized businesses, investments, planning, deals that were ready to go. It would be unfair for the government to cause such damage to these respectable people.”
Less than a week after contracting COVID-19 and returning to work without isolation as long as his department advised, Anutin wore a mask and appeared to be having trouble breathing.
Anutin’s defensive stance took a sharp turn today when he said he filed a lawsuit against a popular TV commentator for defamation last month.
Voice TV presenter Natakorn Devakula said he was called again this morning by the police at Anutin’s home in Buriram County for saying on air that Anutin and Bhumjaithai’s payment for legal cannabis was “immoral” and encouraged drug addiction.
At FCCT, Anutin was joined by his advisor, investor Julpas “Tom” Kruesopon, Chokwan “Kitty” Chopaka advocate, Gloria Lai of the International Drug Policy Federation, and cannabis mogul Cameron Forney.
He predicted that Thailand’s future cannabis industry would be worth $3 billion and would benefit wide segments of society, from growers to entrepreneurs.
He said that in the next five years, Thailand would become a “medical hub” in Asia and beyond.
While the Cannabis Act passed its first reading in Parliament on June 8, it still has weeks to go before it returns to Earth. Anutin announced that the regulations should be in effect no later than September.
A group of commissioners was elected to amend the bill and propose it to the [parliament] for final validation.” “It is expected sometime in August or late September.”
The bill contains an age limit and a ban on selling to pregnant and breastfeeding women, rules already in place with an emergency order issued a week after it became legal.
On June 9, cannabis became fully legal. Only “extracts” containing the psychoactive compound THC (any amount greater than 0.2%) such as foodstuffs, oils, waxes and tinctures – remain controlled.
Decriminalization was so complete that law enforcement was left with no tools other than threatening to fine people under public nuisance laws for smoking in public places or harassing their neighbors.
Since then, ill-considered news reports have blamed cannabis for all manner of ailments including deaths and even a man who cut his penis.
While Anutin continues to insist that his administration promotes cannabis for medicinal purposes only – despite the actual legalization of recreational smoking – Kitty suggested that the government could have been better educating the public.
“I understand that the Department of Health cannot promote recreational use or smoking, but at the same time, by not giving public information, people will not know what to do,” Kitty said. “Think about it. If you keep telling them, ‘Just say no’, ‘Don’t do it wrong’ or ‘Don’t do this’ without telling them how to do it, what do you expect?”
While the final form of the cannabis law remains to be seen, Kitty said Thailand struggles with a lack of public knowledge among issues such as nepotism and corruption.
Reasonable rules are also necessary, she said.
“I want common sense,” Kitty said. “Because if the rules don’t make sense, people won’t follow them. It’s like taxes: If you tax like 40%-50% on them, it doesn’t make sense. And people will go back to the underground.”