If Thailand’s transformation from a nation with one of the strictest set of drug laws to a place with legal cannabis seemed like too much, too soon—you’re not alone. Doctors from across Thailand are speaking out on what they consider to be a reckless cannabis law that lacks protection against children and teens.
President of the Forensic Physician Association of Thailand, Smith Srisont, posted a document on Change.org in Thai with a list of demands to the government. “Turn off the vacuum state of cannabis” the post reads. The “vacuum” is the way the document describes the lack of regulatory controls compared to systems seen in place in other countries. Srisont helped determine the dangers of other substances like kratom in the past.
Over 851 doctors signed the petition, which was posted in Thai, but it should be noted that all 851 signees are doctors and alumni of one single school—the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University in Ratchathewi, Bangkok. However, the school is considered the country’s most respected medical establishment.
The document states that studies show that cannabis could affect the health of children and teenagers as well as the growth of their brains. The document added that with legalization on the agenda, the move now threatens the healthcare system and Thai people’s health, both in the short- and long-term.
“Cannabis was removed from the Public Health Ministry’s Narcotic list on June 9, but no policies have been launched to control the use of cannabis for personal pleasure,” a spokesperson from the group stated. This lack of [legal] direction makes cannabis more accessible for children and teenagers.”
Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was accused Tuesday, by the Opposition party, of deliberately creating a “legal vacuum” in Thailand, in which there is no law to enable control of the use of cannabis, hemp, or extracts following decriminalization of cannabis in the country last month.
Fear in Thai Media
The country also experienced a wave of fear-inducing news articles following the rollout of legal cannabis in the country. Thai PBS reports that in the month following legalization, nine children fell ill from unsupervised cannabis consumption. It was also reported that a 6-year-old child ate cannabis-infused snacks and “fell into a stupor,” while a 15-year-old boy with a known history of depression attacked people with a knife after smoking two joints.
The group invited doctors or alumni who agreed to sign their names and announced that they also had a campaign on Change.org for the public to vote. The target of the campaign was set at 15,000 names, and the campaign got more than 10,800 people.
“The government and related departments should stop threatening people’s health as soon as possible,” the document reads at the end. “The use of cannabis for medical purposes should be under control for the best benefits and safety as the government claimed from the first place.”
Thai doctors began raising concerns that cannabis supposedly can trigger mental health issues months ago. Criticism is also coming from people who are concerned that the change in the law will hurt the reputation of Thai agricultural exports, given that the biomass might be used in animal feed.
Some of the changes have been too much to handle for people in the county. On the bright side, it’s having a lasting positive impact as well. Thailand’s sudden change of heart towards cannabis is prompting other countries in the region such as Indonesia to re-examine their own approach to cannabis.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.