Thailand’s state-owned Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) has distributed its first batch of home-made cannabis oil to selected hospitals in the country. With this step, Thailand has become the first and only country in Southeast Asia to move towards legalizing cannabis for medical use.
Withoon Danwiboon, Managing Director of GPO told media at a briefing on the topic earlier this month that, “It is a global trend and has economic value for us.” A spokesman for GPO added that because of Thailand favorable climatic to grow marijuana plants that the company will be able to ensure a steady supply to hospitals and their patients.
GPO is the sole commercial producer of cannabis-related products in Thailand, but has said that other Thai companies could apply for a license to grow and produce medical cannabis. It also said that foreign investors would be excluded for at least five years from the marijuana business.
Danwiboon said that, “In the first five years when we develop the market, we won’t allow foreign companies or investors to participate,” and the focus of medical cannabis is to benefit Thai people.
From the second phase of the country’s marijuana legalization foreigners might be allowed to establish a limited number of medical marihuana-related operations, but the types of businesses and government regulations related to the participation of foreigners would first have to be created.
An ad for CBD oils in Chiang Mai, Thailand
GPO is planning to distribute 4,000 bottles of CBD oil during August. The first bottles will be made from low-quality marijuana plants that it received from plants that were confiscated from drug suspects. Many of the confiscated plants were discarded since they were contaminated with chemicals and pesticides.
Unnop Likhitjitta, advisor of the board of Thailand’s Office of Narcotic Control said that “the supply side is really critical” and noted that while the department has received around 20 tons of cannabis that was confiscated by the police, only seven kilograms were free from chemicals or other contamination and suitable for medical use.
In order to ensure marijuana of consistent quality and free of contamination, the GPO will grow its own marijuana plants and expand its current indoor plantation to 1,000 square meters in size. The GPO estimates an initial demand for cannabis oil of around 1,350 kilograms this year.
A “bud” of Thai marijuana
As of early August, more than 400 doctors, pharmacists and dentists and 2,900 traditional medical practitioners have already attended training, and begun the process of getting licenses that will allow them to advise patients and distribute CBD oils for treatment. Traditional fold doctors will be encouraged to grow their own marijuana and develop their own drug formulas, and will have to obtain licenses and meet all relevant regulations.
Pramote Stienrut, Deputy Director General of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, said that more than 90 formulas for medical cannabis in traditional Thai medicine – including for powder, extracts and leaves – have already been submitted to the government for approval and 16 have been approved for both marijuana and Thailand’s indigenous “kratom,” a tropical plant which has opioid properties and stimulant effects similar to coca.
Cannabis is still listed as narcotic drug in category 5 of Thailand’s Narcotics Act 1979 and all cannabis products that are produced in the country will need to be approved and licensed. A system that includes track numbers and strict controls over the distribution system through doctors and pharmacists will be implemented and all producers and logistic firms handling the import, export or transportation of cannabis will be under supervision.
An advisor for Thailand’s Narcotic Control Commission said that, “Liberalizing or decriminalizing cannabis for recreational use like the U.S. and countries in Europe have done is not under discussion in Thailand as of yet. The advisor noted that, “I believe there are more amendments on the way, and we can image free ganja in Thailand, meaning that we are open to decriminalizing it at some point, but this has to be discussed thoroughly under consideration of the legal hurdles.”