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Buddhist Temple Left Empty After Monks Fail Drug Tests

After several Thai monks failed drug tests, a Buddhist temple is now quieter than ever. 

Agence France-Presse reports that a total of four monks “including an abbot at a temple in Phetchabun province’s Bung Sam Phan district tested positive for methamphetamine on Monday.” 

Boonlert Thintapthai, an official in the central Thailand district, told Agence France-Presse that the “temple is now empty of monks and nearby villagers are concerned they cannot do any merit-making” after the four monks were sent to a drug rehabilitation clinic. 

“Merit-making involves worshippers donating food to monks as a good deed. Boonlert indicated that additional monks will soon be deployed to the temple, allowing villagers to follow their religious obligations. Thailand is a major transit country for methamphetamine flooding in from Myanmar’s troubled Shan state via Laos, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Pills are sold on the streets for as low as 20 baht ($0.050). Authorities across Southeast Asia have made record meth seizures in recent years,” Agence France-Presse reports.

It comes at a difficult time for both the enforcement of drug laws and for the country as a whole. 

Thai lawmakers approved a bill that removes cannabis from their list of prohibited substances in June. It made it the first Asian country decriminalizing marijuana. 

The new law, however, has created uncertainty and frustration in government officials. 

It was legal for both hemp and cannabis to be grown, and it allowed restaurants to sell THC-infused food and beverages.

To the dismay of Thai officials, these cannabis cafés have begun to sprout up throughout Bangkok’s capital.

“It’s a no,” Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in the summer when asked whether recreational pot use would be allowed. “We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

But the cannabis cafes have been a boon for the country’s tourism industry, with foreign travelers eager to catch a buzz in the southeast Asian state. 

The Thailand government has also reacted negatively to this.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Anutin said in August. 

Anutin stated that recreational use was not allowed after the June law was adopted.

“Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes,” Anutin said at the time. “If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong. Don’t come. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose.”

The new law was also opposed by doctors in Thailand. Over 850 Thai doctors submitted a petition calling for more restrictive rules in July. 

“Cannabis was removed from the Public Health Ministry’s Narcotic list on June 9, but no policies have been launched to control the use of cannabis for personal pleasure,” a spokesperson for the doctors said. “This lack of [legal] direction makes cannabis more accessible for children and teenagers.”

The group of doctors argued that “government and related departments should stop threatening people’s health as soon as possible.”

“The use of cannabis for medical purposes should be under control for the best benefits and safety as the government claimed from the first place,” the group said.