Opinion: Stop spreading misinformation about marijuana, educate the public

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Misinformation concerning Thailand’s new marijuana laws spiraled rampantly last week, especially from government agencies.

First, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt claimed on Tuesday that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) found the world’s first case of a person who died from marijuana overdose. That was a baffling statement. 

About a day later on Wednesday, he walked back on the ill-informed claim, admitting that officials should see the autopsy report in detail.

By Wednesday evening, the autopsy report was released. It showed that the 51-year-old had an underlying disease that resulted in death from heart failure. 

Dr Suksan Kittisupakorn, the director of the BMA’s Medical Office, even noted that it cannot be determined whether the marijuana he smoked an hour before hospitalization had anything to do with the cause of his death.

On top of that, there was no trace of THC, the chemical compound in cannabis that makes you high, in his system.

And like so much in Thailand, the initial report was completely baseless. Yet it did not stop Chadchart from telling authorities and the media about it.

Recreational use of marijuana in Europe started in the 70s and yet, somehow, Thailand found the first case of a person who died from overdosing on marijuana only less than a week after the plant was decriminalised? Give me a break.

Even if you are totally uninvolved in drug culture, people are aware that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. It’s simply never happened.

But here comes the funny part.

On Wednesday, the government’s Public Relations Department had a good idea to try to educate the public about the side effects of marijuana usage. Maybe the idea was nice, but they hilariously failed in execution.

Based on the information provided to them by the Faculty of Agricultural Innovation at Rangsit University, the department’s explanations of the “favourable effects” and “adverse effects” of cannabis and how long you could feel these effects were somewhat close to the truth. 

But their suggestions that people could get rid of the undesirable effects were funny, to say the least. First they recommended drinking water, but then added that people should eat lemon, or chew black pepper to get rid of the effects.

There is absolutely no need to go to the extreme lengths of eating lemon by itself or chew on black pepper. Just drink water or eat food. If worse comes to worst where the effects refuse to go away and you do not like it, try to go to sleep.

As for the concerns over the lack of control over marijuana usage, it was good to see the BMA coming up with the order to make schools in Bangkok as marijuana-free zones and the Ministry of Education is looking to follow suit.

The health ministry already announced rules to regulate marijuana usage that was published in the Royal Gazette on Friday such as people under the age of 20 and pregnant women will not be able to buy marijuana and the ban on smoking marijuana in public.

Responsible marijuana shops have also started to put up warnings on the plant’s side effects and impose their own rules to ban children or pregnant women from being able to buy their products.

What government agencies should do to help is to provide accurate information about marijuana and its side effects. Instead, they have kept to their true character, and it seems that they didn’t even speak to each other, again.

My recommendation for related agencies is to stop, take a breather, research, talk to each other and then educate the public with accurate information. 

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