No legalising of narcotic substances – PM

Mahinda Rajapaksa - Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assured that the government has no intention of legalising narcotic substances. He said tobacco sales had decreased due to its high prices as a result of prohibitive taxes and increased awareness among the public of the ill-effects of smoking cigarettes.

“There is no evidence and reports about a campaign promoting Cannabis, but there are posts on social media platforms which attempt to promote Cannabis as a miracle drug. Some individuals and companies have sought government permission to import the plant to be used as raw material for various products including medicine and to grow it locally. However the government would not legalise narcotic substances,” the Premier said.

In the face of dwindling sales, the tobacco mafia has commenced a campaign to promote Cannabis as a substitute and has hired intellectuals and professionals to promote Cannabis and give their views about these drugs, Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana told Parliament yesterday.

“Professors, doctors, professionals including health experts are now on the payroll of tobacco companies and are writing articles, books and making statements regarding the benefits of Cannabis. Their campaign is not only visible in print and electronic media but also on social media. Their campaign is to get the narcotic plant legalised here. This should be stopped immediately,” the MP said during the round of Questions to the Prime Minister for Oral Answers in Parliament yesterday.

The MP said cigarette sales had dropped drastically in recent times and the tobacco mafia has resorted to promote Cannabis instead as a substitute. “Just like the milk powder mafia and flour import mafia there is a tobacco mafia. The tobacco mafia has raked in key persons and got them to promote Cannabis here. The articles are talking of the possibilities of earning huge sums of foreign exchange by growing hemp in this country. We demand to know from the Prime Minister what action his government would take to save the nation from this imminent threat,” MP Pathirana said.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that a committee has been appointed in terms of provisions of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board Act No 11 of 1980 to study the threats from cannabis. “The government authorities have been continuously conducting awareness programmes of the dangers of the psychotropic effects of cannabis. People are being informed of those dangers in print, electronic as well as social media. In addition to that awareness programmes are being conducted in schools, universities and vocational training institutes.Teachers and teacher trainees are being informed of the measures to be taken to curb the drug menace,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa said.The MP then noted, “Dr Nimal Karunasiri conducted a thorough study on the uses of cannabis. He published a book too. The chief guest at the launch of the book was the Prime Minister. Recently Dr Karunasiri mentioned that at the launching ceremony the prime minister in no uncertain terms stated that Cannabis was a dangerous narcotic and should not be promoted in our society. Dr Karunasiri engaged in a campaign against Cannabis. While being thankful and appreciative of that act of the prime minister I like to know whether he could take the lead from parliament to fight against the narcotic plant in addition to the expert committee.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa responded, “No need to worry about parliament. None of the MPs are using Cannabis.”

MP Pathirana quipped, “Are you sure?”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said, “To the best of my knowledge none of the MPs smoke Cannabis. If you know of anyone who does you can bring that to our notice so that we could take action.”

MP Pathirana said that during the shortage of narcotics, the drug addicts resorted to use cough syrup such as COREX-D and medicines such as Tramadol. “Now after the abuses had been pointed out those medicines are available only at state pharmaceutical outlets and sold under strict procedures. This is a country where medicines are used as narcotic drugs. If a narcotic was given a label of having medicinal values what would be the result?”MP Premnath C. Dolawatte raising a point of order objected to Pathirana’s comment, “It is one of their MPs who had once said that there are cocaine users in parliament. Now this MP is querying whether we are sure that there are no Cannabis smokers in parliament. This is another attempt to bring disrepute to this House. This could be a privilege issue.”Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena intervened by adding that it is not a point of order.

MP Pathirana said that Sri Lanka Medical Council, College of Psychiatrists and College of Community Medicine doctors have issued statements on the threat from cannabis. “We hope that government ministers would refrain from making statements in favour of Cannabis, while there would be a proper study, because the statements of ministers would give the impression that it is the standpoint of the government on the matter.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that he would look into the matter and appoint a committee to investigate this matter.

(Source: Daily News – By Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawarachchi)