The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) advised the Thai government to be extremely cautious as it proceeds on its cannabis policy. The INCB reminded Thailand that it needs to act in accordance with international drug control treaties, as well as be watchful of any harmful policy misstep.
The INCB is the independent body responsible for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions. This quasi-judicial control organ is based in Vienna, Austria, and plays a crucial role in monitoring the enforcement of restrictions on psychotropics and narcotics. It is also in charge of deciding which precursors ought to be regulated.
INCB President Viroj Sumyai said that Thailand is bound by three major international narcotic control agreements. Authorities must study these agreements thoroughly considering that the government has already legalized medical cannabis.
The INCB had been monitoring cannabis policy in the Southeast Asian region and was greatly concerned about the hype surrounding the liberalization of the use of cannabis in Thailand.
Viroj had warned earlier that Thailand is going to lose import privileges for some medicines if it decided to decriminalize recreational cannabis.
It was a proposal to allow every household to grow up to six cannabis plants for private consumption that sparked the concerns. This proposal was floated by the Bhumjaithai Party during the election campaign. The party’s leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, is now Thailand’s public health minister.
According to Viroj, Thailand is required to comply with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The 1961 Convention classifies marijuana as a narcotic yet allows the use of the drug under supervised medical conditions.
Additionally, Thailand is expected to comply with the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.
Viroj pointed out that before the Thai government proceeds with any drug policy, they should first examine these conventions. If the government flouts these UN agreements on narcotic drugs, Thailand’s healthcare system stands to lose.
He added that any government which authorizes the medicinal use of cannabis is required to meet certain conditions pursuant to the 1961 drug control agreement. These conditions include providing estimates of anticipated consumption, as well as providing details of the geographical location and area of any cultivation.
Estimates of the number of cannabis plants to be grown and produced for purposes of Thai traditional medicine have to be reported, too, Viroj said.
Niyom Termsrisuk, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, stated that the agency and the Public Health Ministry still have to decide on the particulars of a committee in charge of overseeing the production and the consumption of medical cannabis.
Termsrisuk pointed out that cannabis remains illegal to grow, distribute, or possess without official permission under the Narcotic Drugs Act. As for the wider drug situation, he said that Thai authorities were on high alert for the spread of another prohibited drug: methamphetamines.
According to Wisit Wisitsora-at, permanent secretary for justice, the Justice Ministry and the ONCB were pushing ahead with narcotics control legislation so as to streamline all laws and regulations that are drug-related.
He said that this draft bill aims to combine into a single bill all the drug suppression laws and regulations that are currently enforced by different agencies. This is to facilitate the efficiency of control in accordance with the national strategic plan.