by Voice of America
Thailand has become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise medical marijuana, but the fine print of the legislation has left advocates of the drug’s healing potential with mixed feelings.
Since the bill was passed on Christmas Eve, some medical marijuana advocates have expressed disappointment the legislation will effectively exclude the private sector from the lucrative industry, worth tens of billions of dollars globally, in favor of government agencies.
Voice of America sat down with Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Bureau Secretary-General Niyom Termsrisuk to find out who exactly will be able to grow, sell, buy and regulate medical marijuana in a country where it has long been a strictly prohibited substance.
Speaking through an interpreter, Termsrisuk told VOA that private firms would be able to cultivate, produce and sell medical marijuana, provided they were two-thirds owned by Thai nationals.
“From the cultivation to delivering to the patient, it will be under the law and regulation controlled by the committee. If it fits in the regulation and the qualifications that we have, so (then) yes, they can do it,” he said.
Authorised government agencies, including those overseeing Thai traditional medicine, individual licensed medical doctors; educational institutions and community farmer cooperatives, would all be permitted to cultivate the crop.
“We will designate the process and procedure that is standardised so that if any organization comes to fit into that standard that we set, they will have the authority to do it,” Termsrisuk said.
“But they need to be authorised and registered under the law. And apart from that, it will be in the consideration of the minister of public health but also approved by the committee,” he added.
There will be strict controls on cultivation, including a mandate that all medical marijuana is grown indoors — which is intended to help prevent illegal practices and ensure quality — but that significantly increases the cost of cultivation.
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