THE CABINET yesterday cleared a bill to legalise the medical use of marijuana but added a condition that the legalisation must be reviewed after five years.
The bill has been drafted by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
Following the Cabinet’s green light and recommended addition, the draft law will go back to the NLA for further deliberation along with comments from the Council of State, the Public Health Ministry and the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB)
The bill does not reclassify marijuana as a less-controlled narcotic. It, however, seeks to reclassify kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), moving it to a less-controlled drug category or to the same rank as morphine.
“In all, the bill unlocks marijuana use for patients and doctors only,” Government Spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta said.
According to him, the Cabinet resolved to add a provisional chapter to ensure that the Public Health Ministry will strictly control marijuana use for at least five years after the cannabis legalisation becomes effective, and that the law will be reviewed after five years to check its effectiveness.
“Following the review, marijuana use may then be further eased or restricted,” he said.
At present, many researches have suggested that marijuana has medical benefits.
According to several doctors, marijuana can be used to manage pain from nerve damage and cancer, nausea from chemotherapy and loss of appetite among HIV patients. It is also helpful for seizures and chronic neuro-inflammation. There are, however, lingering concerns about whether the authorities will be able to efficiently control marijuana once it is allowed for patients to use at home.
The government, therefore, has reiterated that strict control measures will be in place.
National Farmers Council’s president Prapat Panyachartrak yesterday expressed doubts as to whether the measures were aimed at favouring multinational drug firms.
“Due to some complicated conditions that relevant authorities look set to introduce, farmers may not enjoy the benefits of marijuana despite the fact that they have had health problems and there is proof that marijuana can be helpful,” he said.
Prapat said his council wanted to see farmers have the right to treat themselves with marijuana, which could be grown at a low cost.
“If farmers can grow marijuana, they will also earn good income. Marijuana from Laos can now be sold at no less than Bt5,000 per kilo,” he said.
Biodiversity, Sustainable Agriculture, and Food Sovereignty Action Thailand Foundation (BIOTHAI), meanwhile, has vowed to bring to light records that the Intellectual Property Department has already advertised at least eight cannabis-related patent applications.
BIOTHAI made the move after the department announced that any attempt to register a patent for a cannabis extract would not be considered, as Thai law clearly stated that herbal extracts were not regarded as intellectual property.
According to BIOTHAI, the department’s decision to advertise those patent applications may constitute a legal offence.