Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and the current chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, recently commended Thailand for legalising cannabis, stating that it is a major step towards ending drug criminalisation. Speaking at the Harm Reduction International Conference 2023 in Melbourne, Clark called for an end to capital punishment, particularly for those convicted of drug offences. She expressed her support for harm reduction services that can help keep people who use drugs healthy and create immense savings from law enforcement to the court system compared to criminalisation. Last year, Thailand removed cannabis from its list of Category 5 narcotics, effectively enabling the possession, cultivation, distribution, consumption, and sale of all cannabis plant parts. However, cannabis extracts and products containing THC in excess of 0.2% by weight are still considered narcotics. Despite this, recreational use of cannabis products is encouraged and legal, while the import and export of cannabis remains regulated. Clark also raised concerns about Southeast Asia’s heavy crackdown on drugs and deemed harm reduction crucial for the well-being of people using drugs. Even though Thailand retains the death penalty for some crimes, Clark stated that it is disproportionate and against international law, especially for drug offences. She added that punitive drug laws drive prison overcrowding and unjustifiably ruin innocent lives. With this in mind, Clark emphasised the importance of putting people’s health and well-being first and recommended harm reduction approaches that address the harmful consequences of drug use for individuals, families, and communities. She further stated that the legal framework is necessary in putting in place harm reduction measures, and that countries should avoid criminalising drug use. Clark believes that harm reduction services can manage and mitigate the negative impacts of bad drug laws, reducing the number of people who use drugs while respecting their rights. Furthermore, Clark called on political leaders to commit to addressing the funding gaps in harm reduction services and to reach UNAIDS 2025 ‘90% target’ on coverage of safe injecting practices among people who inject drugs. “Our political leaders, at all levels of government, need to stand up for harm reduction and recognise that this is a human rights issue,” she concluded. In conclusion, Clark praised Thailand’s move towards decriminalising cannabis as a positive step in stopping drug criminalisation but urged the country to abolish capital punishment, particularly for drug offences. Harm reduction services, she argued, are necessary to reduce the negative impacts of bad drug laws, insure respect for people’s rights, and improve society’s overall health and well-being. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect those of High Thailand.