Community physicians condemn decriminalising cannabis

By Sarah Hannan

The College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka (CCPSL) raised concerns over the increased lobbying taking place regarding legalising/decriminalising the use of cannabis.

“While we acknowledge the use of cannabis in traditional medicine, and as currently it is legal and available for use for that purpose in Sri Lanka, we don’t see justification to change the current status quo related to cannabis legalisation in our country,” CCPSL President Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe told The Morning.

Dr. Abeysinghe noted that in the recent past, the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries’ interests in cannabis led to a well-funded global lobbying movement for its legalisation.

“As tobacco is going out of popularity, they (tobacco industry) are searching for an alternative and are now invested in the cannabis trade. For them, it’s simply about replacing one leaf with another in their supply and manufacturing processes,” he added.

He noted that recent studies have shown that the concentration of the addictive chemical (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) in cannabis in the market today is as high as 30%, a drastic increase from what it used to be in the past (3%). Thus, the current cannabis varieties in the market have a huge potential to be addictive and cause more harm if its availability and accessibility is improved through legalisation of the trade.

“Just because a drug is legalised, its illicit form will not disappear from the market, as evident from the tobacco and alcohol trades,” Dr. Abeysinghe exclaimed.

The CCPSL expressed that they were surprised that policymakers were publicly accepting the arguments of individuals pertaining to the illicit drug and contributing to normalise its availability in the market.

In addition, they observed that these lobbyists were publicly attacking the advocates of public health who raise their voices against this movement.

Therefore, the CCPSL condemned such personal attacks on professionals and believes that these incidents indicate the potential negative impact on society should this addictive substance become freely available.