• Thailand became the first South East Asian country to officially legalise medical cannabis
  • Recreational cannabis remains banned
  • Kratom will also be legalised
  • Foreign pharmaceutical firms are already trying to dominate the market with patents for cannabinoid-medications

In a historic vote, Thailand’s parliament voted to approve cannabis for medical and research purposes on Christmas Day.

In a unanimous vote of 166-0, the interim junta-appointed parliament approved the amendments to the Narcotic Act of 1979, paving the way for legal use of cannabis for medical treatments. Only 13 lawmakers abstained.

Those with prescriptions or recognised certificates will be allowed to carry specified amounts “necessary” for medicinal reasons, if they have a prescription or recognised certificate, the Bangkok Post said.

Licences for production and sale of the product will be strictly controlled.

Recreational cannabis remains illegals, carrying a potential five-year prison sentence, going up to 15 years for possession of over 10 kilograms.

Amnesty will be granted for those who already currently possess cannabis intended for medical use, but they will need to register the substances with the Food and Drug Administration within 90 days after the law is enacted.

The law also applies to kratom, a South East Asian plant that acts as a stimulant.

It isn’t clear when the law will come into effect, but legislation in Thailand is typically enacted within a month after parliament approves it, so we could be seeing legal medical cannabis being prescribed in Thailand before the end of January 2019.

This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.
– Somchai Sawangkarn, Thai Politician

In a televised parliamentary session, Somchai Sawangkarn, the Bill’s sponsor and chairman of the drafting committee, said:

“This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”

The main controversy with legalisation in Thailand involves patent requests by foreign pharmaceutical firms, which could allow them to dominate the market, making it harder for Thai patients to access cannabinoid medications.

It also poses a potential problem for Thai researchers to access cannabis extracts for studies.

Discussing this issue, Panthep Puapongpan, Dean of the Rangsit Institute of Integrative Medicine and Anti-Aging, said:

“We’re going to demand that the government revoke all these requests before the law takes effect.”

Despite the Conservative-led Government legalising cannabis for medical use in Britain, it looks possible that Thai citizens could have access to medical cannabis sooner than their British counterparts.