In a progressive shift, the Public Health Ministry of Thailand has established possession limits for individuals who are to be considered as drug users rather than traffickers or dealers, in a landmark announcement made through the Royal Gazette.According to the Gazette’s publication on February 9, the Public Health Ministry, under the directive of Minister Cholnan Srikaew, has outlined specific thresholds below which the presence of illicit substances will no longer result in major legal repercussions. This initiative aligns with Section 107 of the Narcotics Code, which mandates the Minister to define clear boundaries separating users from those engaged in the drug trade.

Notably, this regulatory change means that individuals found with quantities such as up to five methamphetamine pills or no more than 500 milligrams will be classified legally as users and subsequently encouraged to undertake rehabilitation programs instead of facing incarceration. The reform reflects an evolving understanding that addiction should be addressed as a public health issue rather than solely a criminal one, a stance that resonates with the global movement towards drug decriminalization and normalization of cannabis use for various purposes, including medicinal.

The Public Health Minister ensured broad engagement with stakeholders through a public hearing process over two weeks before finalizing the proposal. The ceilings established encompass various substances beyond methamphetamine, setting limits for MDEA (a type of amphetamine) at five units or 1,250 mg, heroin at 300 mg, LSD (the well-known psychedelic) at 100 mg, ecstasy at 1,250 mg, cocaine at 200 mg, opium at 5,000 mg, cannabis extracts with more than 0.2% THC content at 30 ml in liquid form, and ketamine at 500 mg in crystal or powder form.

Law enforcement officials have been directed to use this regulation as a guide when prosecuting drug-related cases. Individuals found in possession of small amounts of these substances will have an opportunity to avoid legal penalties if they agree to enter and complete a drug rehabilitation program, meeting specific eligibility criteria.

In response to some public criticism that accused him of being lenient on drug abuse, Minister Cholnan clarified his approach, emphasizing a more humane and rehabilitative approach to dealing with drug users. Meanwhile, Narcotics Suppression Bureau Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kirisak Tantinwachai reminded the public that despite these new thresholds, individuals involved in the sale or distribution of drugs, regardless of the quantity involved, will still face severe legal consequences.

This policy represents a nuanced approach to narcotics control, one that differentiates between substance dependency and criminal enterprise. It underscores the increasingly acknowledged perspective that addiction requires support and treatment rather than incarceration, a philosophy that echoes the calls by proponents of cannabis legalization for compassionate, evidence-based drug policies.

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