The Ministry of Public Health in Thailand launched the first full-time medical marijuana clinic in Bangkok earlier this month. The launch was led by the conservative, military-dominated government, whose main aim is to make Thailand the regional producer and distributor of medical marijuana.
Marijuana extracts are approved for treating a wide range of diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
More clinics will be opened in greater Bangkok as promised by the government, and through a specialized smartphone app, patients would be able to book appointments.
Dr. Ganja, a mascot, is campaigning for the government to promote medical marijuana. Dr. Ganja is an approachable and level –headed scientist. Another supporter of legal marijuana is the Thailand Prime Minister who is also a former military general, Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Discussed below is where the push for developing the legal marijuana industry in Thailand started and whether it could be the gateway for further drug use liberalization in South East Asia.
When the Push Towards Medical Marijuana Started in Thailand
Marijuana was outlawed in Thailand in 1935, and before that ban, it had always been a part of traditional medicine and a cooking ingredient. It had also been used as a form of pain relief.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Thailand took place in December 2018, making Thailand the first country in South East Asia to legalize marijuana. It was legalized through an amendment of the 1979 Narcotic Act, thereby approving the use of marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.
The Ministry of Health in Thailand has a website containing information about marijuana cultivation, medical research, and the status of marijuana in Thailand, and the public can browse through the website to educate themselves.
The cultivation of medical marijuana can now be done by government agencies, institutions of higher education, agricultural producers, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals.
The first medical marijuana research institution was launched in 2019 by Rangit University in Bangkok. Harsh penalties are still being imposed on those found possessing and trafficking marijuana.
Why Thailand Decided to Promote Medical Marijuana
The military-dominated government recognized the vast business opportunity and tax revenue to ensue from the legalization of medical marijuana, and this could have been a strong motivator for legalizing the industry.
Besides, having watched how the marijuana market in North America has grown, increased revenues, and created thousands of jobs, the Thai government had to venture into the medical marijuana industry.
Prohibition Partners is a marijuana market research firm, and it estimated that by 2024, the Asian medical marijuana market could be worth $8.4 billion. The managing director of Prohibition Partners, Daragh Anglim, said that a well regulated medical marijuana market across Asia could help transform patients’ health, farmers, and the economy. The firm further estimated that Thailand’s legal marijuana market could be worth about $958 million by 2024.
Being one of the largest medical tourism destinations across the globe, Thailand officials would like to provide medical tour packages such as detox, massages and other wellness services using medical marijuana products, said the tourism minister, Pipat Ratchakitprakan.
Could it Be the Gateway to the Broader Legalization of Marijuana?
A recent poll shows that 80% of Thai citizens are in favor of full legalization of marijuana, reported the Bangkok Post. This indicates that Thailand could be on the path of legalizing adult-use marijuana, but the military is still opposed to adult-use recreational marijuana.
Nevertheless, the steps that they have taken to avail medical marijuana to the patients who need it the most may have won applause from industry players like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) and Neutra Corp. (OTC: NTRR) who would like patients from all parts of the world to have the option of using medical marijuana to manage their conditions.
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