Medical specialists concerned over cannabis use, as govt plans massive handout

Medical specialists concerned over cannabis use, as govt plans massive handout

published :
10 Jun 2022 at 20:27

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tries a cannabis-based product at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province on May 27, 2022, when he announced the liberalised use of cannabis for medical and economic purposes and campaigns against its abuse. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tries a cannabis-based product at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province on May 27, 2022, when he announced the liberalised use of cannabis for medical and economic purposes and campaigns against its abuse. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Department of Agriculture will start distributing 1 million cannabis plants to members of the public this month, while a paediatricians’ organisation warn that young people are vulnerable to cannabis’ effects because their brains are still developing.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Manunya Thaiseth said on Friday that the department will give away up to two cannabis plants to each interested household, following the legalisation of cannabis on Thursday.

Ms Manunya said those who are interested to receive the free seedlings can submit their applications to provincial cooperative offices or agricultural research and development centres in 53 provinces on June 16. An online channel would be set up for the purpose, she added. 

The Public Health Ministry also planned to distribute high-quality cannabis strains, she said.

With cannabis seeds becoming more widely available, the deputy minister advised buyers to consider purchasing seeds certified by the Department of Agriculture. This would help them avoid buying low-quality seeds.

Rapeepat Chantarasriwong, director-general of the department, said the distribution of 1 million cannabis plants will start from this month until December. About 100,000 to 200,000 plants will be given each month.

Registrants would receive the plants about 30 days after filing their applications. People in Greater Bangkok can register at the department’s service centre in Kasetsart University from June 16 onwards, Mr Rapeepat said.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Paediatricians of Thailand said that it was concerned about possible negative impacts on young people in the wake of legalised cannabis.

Dr Somsak Lolekha, chairman of the college, said on Friday that people below 20 should not consume cannabis-based food products, as they may experience delayed development and emotional and behavioural effects.

Although the government’s campaign focuses on the use of cannabis for medical, household and economic purposes, not for recreation, there were concerns about effective control on cannabis use, Dr Somsak said.

He said the legalisation of cannabis gives cannabis access to all groups of people in the country, including those who are vulnerable like children and teenagers. The young could have cannabis through their consumption of food and beverages with cannabis content and the use of addictive cannabis for recreation.

With the free use of cannabis which contains many kinds of psychoactive cannabinoid, people could receive such substances through cannabis-based food and processed products and suffer severe impacts.

Dr Somsak said there could be serious impacts on the brains of children and teenagers who could have delayed development, behavioural and mental problems, lower intelligence and risks of schizophrenia, suicide and dependence on other addictive substances.

He said that people below 20 should not consume cannabis because their brains had not been fully developed and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis would have long-term impacts on their brains.

THC marijuana for home cultivation is considered legal from Thursday. The law considers low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to be 0.2% by weight or lower. A higher percentage for cannabis and hemp extracts is still illegal.

THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, which is what makes people feel high.

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