Holy smokes: Govt. mulls over exploring medical marijuana

By Sonam Choki

In a recent change of stance against the much-debated uses of the weed, Foreign Affairs minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the government is exploring ways to legalise marijuana for medicinal use in the country.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said this when the Member of Parliament (MP) from Dramedtse-Ngatshang constituency quizzed him as to when the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act will be tabled for amendment.

The MP said Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, while presenting the State of the Nation report last year, had said that the Act would be tabled for amendment.

Responding to his queries, the Foreign Affairs’ Minister said the government is taking some time to table the Act for amendment as the country has to depend on international experts to carry out research to legalise marijuana for medicinal use.

He added that marijuana is considered a psychotropic substance currently. However, in other parts of the world, the oil from marijuana is considered medicine.

Dr Tandi said most countries have commercialised marijuana and that the government feels that it will help boost our economy. However, he said we don’t have the expertise and had to consult international experts on the matter.

The Foreign Affairs’ minister said experts from other countries were looking at the feasibility and other aspects when the pandemic struck and works had to be suspended abruptly.

The Drametse-Ngatshang MP also proposed that the government prioritise and table some select sections for the amendment to which some disagreed. He said the House can prioritise and table the sections that need immediate change for amendment during the winter session.

He said that if medical marijuana it can be legalised there is nothing better than that. However, if that cannot be done, at least reducing the sentencing would help a lot.

Norbu Wangzom, the Jomotshangkha_Martshala MP said that in some villages in the east we cannot see men as they are all behind the bars and it is difficult for women to run the house. So she requested the House to put the entire Act for amendment.

Today, many youths are sentenced to up to seven years in prison for possession and abuse of marijuana. Therefore, the government called for the amendment of the Act.

There has been a growing popular movement across the globe to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses, with several states adopting such measures already.

One motivation for legalization is the economic benefits that can come from the regulated commercial availability of marijuana like increased tax revenues, job growth, and investment opportunities all are powerful incentives to push for legalization.

The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs just last December also voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world’s most dangerous drugs. Experts say the decision has the potential to impact the global medical marijuana industry.

The Vienna-based U.N. agency said in a statement that it had voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids.

The schedules weigh a drug’s medical utility versus the possible harm that it might cause. Experts say that taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana.

In 2017 the WHO SEA region reported that Bhutan has the highest number of adolescents using other tobacco products at 29.3 percent followed by Timor-Leste (27.1 percent) and Thailand (14 percent).

According to the 2017 report, Bhutan also has the highest number of adolescents using marijuana at 12 percent, followed by Thailand at 5.3 percent. Timor-Leste and Maldives have a little over 4 percent of adolescents using marijuana.

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