Weed policy is still hazy

After parts of the cannabis plant were taken off the country’s narcotics list, the commercial prospects of cannabis-related products have become promising. Many business operators, including those listed on the stock market, have launched business plans to cash in on the government’s move to partially legalise the once-taboo and criminalised plant.

Companies have announced a variety of cannabis-related projects, from cannabis leaf-infused food and beverages, healthcare and cosmetic products, indoor growing kits for cannabis, to weed plantations.

The plans have driven the stock prices of several companies to skyrocket despite the projects having not yet materialised.

Cannabis is making its way into daily life in Thailand and is likely to become a cash cow, driving the price of a fresh cannabis leaf to 15,000-20,000 baht per kilogramme and dried leaf to 40,000 baht/kg.

The sharp increase in the popularity and demand for cannabis leaves raises the question of whether consumers are becoming victims of a misleading cannabis promotion campaign sponsored by the Public Health Ministry. Cannabis-infused products have garnered popularity but most consumers seem to lack an understanding of cannabis properties and the government’s legalisation policy.

It is the government’s task to educate the public about these matters amid rising claims and advertising extolling the benefits of cannabis and how good the products are. Cannabis is still categorised as a Category 5 narcotic under the Narcotic Drugs Act but the Public Health Ministry recently issued a regulation to expunge the plant’s leaves, stalks, stems and roots from the list.

The permitted parts and content must come only from authorised producers — government organisations with medical and research goals, modern and traditional medical practitioners, universities, community-based enterprises and community cooperatives.

What consumers must know is that the permitted parts of cannabis contain very small amounts, if any, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which are the active components sought for their pharmacological and psychoactive effects. Marijuana’s recreational and therapeutic properties come from the two substances.

The substances are concentrated in the plant’s buds and bud leaves. But these parts are still categorised as narcotics and are prohibited for public use. Some consumers have been misled into thinking that cannabis leaves also contain active contents and can have medical and recreational purposes.

This is why products blended with cannabis leaves are so popular despite the leaves not containing any substantial active contents. As a result, the price of the leaves is unreasonably inflated. It is just a marketing gimmick to draw money from the pockets of consumers.

In other countries, the buds of a cannabis plant are harvested for medical and recreational use while the leaves are seen as a byproduct, rather than a valuable product.

The leaves are normally dumped in a landfill if not used as swine farm feed. The plant leaf may be nutritious and contain vitamins and fibre and may be used as food seasoning but its price should not be inflated like this. Its value is manipulated to outpace its properties as consumers are not told the truth.

It is the responsibility of the Public Health Ministry to correct people’s understanding as the ministry is playing a crucial role in promoting something that seems to support political demands.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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