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Thai State Hospitals Have Started Distributing Cannabis Oils

Those enrolled in the country’s universal health scheme can avail of the oils for free.

by Meera Navlakha
19 August 2019, 10:08am

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem via Pexels.

Bottles of cannabis oils are now stocked up and ready to go in Thailand’s state hospitals.

The medical institutions received 4,500 bottles of marijuana extract--each filled with 5 milliliters of the substance--on Aug. 7 and have started to distribute them, announced Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Chanvirakul on Friday, according Coconuts.

Thailand has been working on rolling out medical marijuana for a while. The country made history in December last year when it became the first in Asia to legalise cannabis for medical purposes.

Under the new law, cannabis (locally known as ganja) and kratom, a local plant with opioid properties, can be used for medical purposes. All licenses, including production and sale, will be regulated by the government. Marijuana also becomes an “essential drug” under the law.

“This is the outcome of legalising medical cannabis," Chanvirakul said of the oils being distributed earlier this month, according to Reuters.

"There is no hidden agenda. We only want to support every patient.”

His comments come as some have raised concerns about the misuse of marijuana in the country. Thailand was once a huge exporter of weed, which led to it being outlawed entirely in the 1930’s.

Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) and several other agencies will work to produce 200,000 bottles of cannabis oil every month starting September, Chanvirakul said.

To meet this, the GPO plans to cultivate marijuana in greenhouses by next year.

Those who are enrolled in the Gold Card (a universal health scheme), Social Security Fund, or any civil service healthcare program will be allowed to get the oils free of charge.

“Doctors will diagnose each patient and prescribe each formula to be used,” Chanvirakul said in a press conference earlier this month, according to the Straits Times. “This will not cause harm or addiction if it is used under medical supervision.”

In addition to providing alternative medical treatments in Thailand, legalising medical marijuana is also seen as a welcome addition to Thailand’s agriculture sector.

“We want to be a leader in marijuana,” GPO President Sophon Metkthon told Bloomberg. “Our brand is strong and we have traditional Thai medicine knowledge that’s over 300 years old.”

By 2024, the Thai cannabis market is expected to be worth over $661 million, according to Prohibition Partners, a cannabis research firm.

However, Rangsit University’s Supachai Kunaratnpruk, a former Health Ministry official, reminded earlier this month that the initiative is still in a “transition period.” This entails an increase in production and supply, which is still minimal at this time.

Kunaratnpruk is a part of the university’s cannabis lab, which is spearheading research on marijuana with their “ganja studies” curriculum.

“Our responsibility is to develop special Thai strains of world-class cannabis used in medicine. We want to cooperate with farmer co-ops,” he told The Week. “They grow it, we provide knowledge and it’s all sold to the medical profession."

Apart from Thailand, other countries in Asia are also looking into legalising medical marijuana. Similar laws are being studied in Malaysia, Laos, and the Philippines.

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