Legalizing weed hasn’t increased smoking: Anutin

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on May 27 in a Public Health Ministry photo. Background: Craig Bak
Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on May 27 in a Public Health Ministry photo. Background: Craig Bak

The public health official who’s lashed his legitimacy to Thailand’s embrace of legal weed said on its two-month anniversary that he doesn’t believe it has created a new generation of smokers.

Responding to fresh attacks on his signature policy initiative, Anutin Charnvirakul today again stressed cannabis’ medical benefits and asserted without evidence that it had not led to higher rates of smoking.

“As of today, cannabis has been legal for two months. The numbers show that legalization doesn’t lead to an increase in smokers. In contrast, it has made possible for a large number of people to have access to the medicinal uses of cannabis on their own.”

Anutin’s comments, in which he repeated that legislation was on the way to introduce regulations that would end the current free-for-all, came after members of the opposition Pheu Thai Party held a panel discussion where they slammed legalization as “heading in the wrong direction.”

Deputy party leader Sutin Klangsaeng said the current cannabis anarchy would get so bad that the public would be demanding it would be banned anew within six months.

“This time, marijuana will circulate among homes, creating a path to great sins, and eventually society will demand that cannabis be classified as a drug,” Sutin said at the panel discussion at ThinkLab in Bangkok.

Indeed, Anutin’s enemies have been sharpening their knives as anxiety has grown since weed’s legalization June 9, drawing sharp rebukes from the medical community which he oversees as minister of public health and member of the increasingly unpopular ruling coalition.

Since June 9, dispensaries have proliferated, as have sidewalk sellers and a fleet of weed trucks roving the streets.

The rapid expansion of readily available ganja has flown in the face of Anutin’s frequent pronouncements that it was being decriminalized only for medical benefit. 

“Today, that society for the most part is knowledgeable, understanding and ready to consume cannabis the right way,” he said this morning. “As time passes on there will be more people who will understand it over time, not less.”

In fact, a Weed Wild West was created June 9 when it was delisted as a controlled drug, as the necessary bill to impose regulations was not even brought up in parliament until June 8.

Social conservatives have decried legalization, stoking fears of young people abusing the drug, and complaining the government has effectively promoted recreational use. Last month, hundreds of doctors and medical professionals signed a petition urging the government to end the legal vacuum which has enabled recreational use.

Anutin is definitely promoting weed, as evinced by two large cannabis plants sitting outside his office.

After people took note yesterday of the plants and others at a ministry garden and balcony – said to be gifts from another agency – Anutin said they were there to promote weed – for medical use only, of course!

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