By Dalton Rosario
On Tuesday December 25th, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed new amendments to the Narcotic Act of 1979 in a landslide parliamentary vote of 166-0, to remove bans on medicinal cannabis and kratom. Although recreational cannabis use is still illegal, legislative enforcement for medical programs will take effect after being published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette. As reported by Reuters, Somchai Sawangkarn Chairman of the Drafting Committee, commented in a televised junta-appointed parliamentary session, “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”
As regulatory agencies proceed with the necessary infrastructure to allow access of cannabis to patients based upon prescriptions from licensed medical doctors, organizations such as the Thai Red Cross Society and Government Pharmaceutical Organization are eligible for production and distribution of medical cannabis to meet the supply and demand of the market.
Cannabis was culturally accepted as traditional medicine in Thailand until being banned in the 1930’s. Since then a staggering amount of research has surfaced - lifting prohibition - due to overwhelming proof that medical cannabis helps treat: chronic pain, nausea and vomiting resultant of chemotherapy, epilepsy-induced seizures and sleep apnea syndrome.
Further controversy surrounds the influence foreign firms will have on Thailand’s medical cannabis market by requesting international patents that could make it more difficult for Thai patients to receive their prescriptions and for Thai researchers to study cannabis extracts. Activist groups are already calling for the Thai government to revoke access for these patents by international firms until after legislation has been enacted locally.