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Buddhist temple emptied of its holy men after monks test positive for meth

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Monks at Thai monastery will be spending the next little while in drug rehabilitation

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A Buddhist temple in central Thailand has been emptied of its holy men after the residing monks tested positive for methamphetamine, resulting in all of them being defrocked and shown the door.

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“Stimulants are drugs that increase central nervous system activity,” notes information from the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy in Ontario. “They basically change the way your brain does things, including making you breathe faster, making your heart beat faster, giving you more energy, and making you feel like you can handle anything that comes along.”

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According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), a district official confirmed that four monks, including an abbot, no longer reside at the temple in Bung Sam Phan district after testing positive for meth one day earlier. All holy men will reportedly be spending the next little while in drug rehabilitation.

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Per Vice, the monks were forced by police to take urine tests, subsequently failing, but Outlook reports that new holy men were expected to be sent to the temple in short order.

Not the first Thai monks in hot water over drugs

It’s not the first time that monks have been shipped off for a bit of drug re-education. In the late spring of 2022, just four days after being ordained, four Buddhist monks were kicked out of the order for taking bong hits.

Indeed, the teens were caught smoking weed while taking part in a nine-day drug rehab program partly run by the order, Buddhist Sangha, and the criminal court.

This past March, per Vice, a monk who rose to fame two years ago after claiming to have omniscient powers, was disrobed after being charged with drunk driving and drug (dozens of meth pills) possession and a couple of months earlier in January, another monk was similarly punished after getting caught consuming meth pills and selling them to local youths.

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Meth a Schedule 1 drug

In Thailand, methamphetamines are a Schedule I drug. “Any individual who is found to be guilty of using or possessing any drugs from Category 1, which also involves ecstasy and heroin, will be facing up to 10 years in prison,” notes information from Ratchada Law Firm. Individuals found in possession of more than 20 grams could potentially face the death penalty.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) reported last June that “the synthetic drug trade continues to expand in East and Southeast Asia, with production and trafficking hitting record levels in 2021.”

Increased production is combining with decreased prices. The wholesale and street prices of both tablet and crystal methamphetamine in Malaysia and Thailand fell “to all-time lows in 2021 as the supply surged.”

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Per Outlook, methamphetamine pills (called Yaba) are “easily available street and party drugs,” sold at low prices.

Thailand delisted cannabis as Category 5 narcotic this year

As for cannabis, Thailand legalized medicinal use in 2018 and delisted weed as a Category 5 narcotic (which includes psychoactive mushrooms and kratom) this year, thereby making the plant available for medical and commercial use.

Per Time, growing some cannabis plants for personal consumption, as well as smoking at home, gets a pass, but sparking on the street could lead to a fine or, possibly, up to three months of incarceration.

Religions have used cannabis as part of ceremonies

It’s not clear how and why methamphetamines were being used by the monks, but with regards to cannabis, Leafly has reported that Buddhist practitioners in Tibet “often consume cannabis to facilitate meditation or heighten awareness during religious ceremonies.”

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For Rastafarians, cannabis “is usually used within religious ceremonies in a highly ritualized manner in order to enhance feelings of unity and help generate visions of a spiritual and soothing nature,” adds Points History.

In the U.S. almost two decades ago, a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court noted adherents of a small religious group could continue, at least for now, to import and use an illegal drug in their worship services.” The court found the federal government had not adequately shown it had a compelling interest in banning a “sincere religious practice,” per Pew Research Center.

For Buddhist monks in Thailand, though, The Nation Thailand reported this week that the Sangha Supreme Council banned Buddhist monks and novices from smoking or cultivating weed, hemp and kratom. The use of weed as a treatment prescribed by a doctor is OK.

“The legalization of cannabis on June 9 led to concerns that monks and novices may start using the herb freely and even grow the plants in temples,” the publication quoted a National Office of Buddhism official as saying. The approach is part of guidelines specifically for the Thai monastic order and cannabis.

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