BANGKOK – Thailand’s Justice Minister Gen.Paiboon Koomchaya has said he is standing firm in his aim to remove krathom and marijuana from the narcotic drugs list and treat them as medicinal herbs.
He believes the move is necessary because the government has failed to curb them.
He reiterated his stance yesterday when he met officials and civic groups from 14 southern provinces in Songkhla. The meeting was called because crackdowns in Thailand are believed to have forced people to buy the illicit plants from Malaysia, according to a source.
Gen Paiboon said the strict law against consuming krathom and marijuana has proved unsuccessful, so it is time to “rewrite the law, making krathom and marijuana herbs”.
“But the law must make clear a legal way to use them,” he said, adding that successfully eradicating these plants will not end drug problems.
Thailand should stop using only suppression, and treat the issue of illegal drugs in three stages: suppression, prevention and rehabilitationâ€ General Koomchaya said.
Krathom, known scientifically as Mitragyna speciosa, and marijuana are currently categorised as Class 5 narcotics under the 1979 Narcotic Drugs Act. The law does not allow for the production, consumption, sale, import, export or possession of these drugs, unless permitted by the public health minister on a case-by-case basis.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration suggested the government legalise krathom because experts have found it has medicinal properties, including as a painkiller.
The FDA believes a legal amendment will benefit the medical treatment of patients suffering from certain illnesses.
According to Gen Paiboon, controlling the use of krathom requires cooperation from the authorities who can educate people to prevent abuse.
While the initial talk of helping, rather than jailing drug offenders illicited the expected cries of opposition from the usual sectors, including a group of female Buddhists who submitted a petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for General Koomchayaâ€™s dismissal, for â€œdestroying Thailandâ€™s good moralityâ€, it would appear that work on reforming Thailand drug laws is well underway.
In an interview with Khaosod English in August Sirinya Sitdhichai, director of the Narcotics Control Board said work on reclassifying of the vegetable items will proceed first, possibly â€˜â€within the next several monthsâ€â€˜. As for methamphetamine, changes to itâ€™s classification will probably take until the end of the year.
Thailand currently classifies heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and LSD as Category 1 drugs; cocaine, codeine, methadone, and morphine as Category 2 drugs; and cannabis, magic mushrooms, and kratom as Category 5 drugs.
Penalties for producing, importing and exporting Category 1 drugs include fines up to Bt5 million (US$143,157), life imprisonment, and even death. Possession of Category 1 drugs is penalised by up to 10 years imprisonment and fines up to Bt200,000 ($5,726).
Under the proposal being pushed by the Ministry of Justice ya ba, which is currently listed as a Category 1 drug will be reclassified as a Category 2 drug. Hemp, kratom, and marijuana, all currently Category 5 drugs, will be similarly reclassified as Category 2 drugs. Under Thailandâ€™s narcotics Control Act Category 1 and 5 drugs cannot be licensed for medical, or any other use.
In addition to allowing the reclassified drugs to be used in medical treatment the changes, which also involve the Ministry of Public Health, the National Farmers Council and the Narcotics Control Board, will also open the door to hemp farming as a cash crop, and pave the way for medical research.
The reclassification will not, as some people have attempted to portray, see the return of Thailandâ€™s once well deserved reputation as one of the worldâ€™s happy, hippie, ganja-toking capitals.