Thailand legalizes medical marijuana

Adding to the growing list of countries that have recognized the medicinal properties of cannabis, the Southeast Asian country of Thailand has legalized the use of cannabis and kratom for both research and medicinal purposes.

Demonstrating the country’s desire for the new legislation, Reuters reports that the Thai people demonstrated overwhelming support for the new legislation in public hearings.

Passing the government’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) with no opposition, a junta-appointed parliament voted 166 to 0 to legalize medical cannabis with 13 abstentions.

Amending the Narcotic Act of 1979 in an extra-parliamentary session handling multiple measures before the end of the year, the new legislation will become law once it is published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette, which can take up to four months.

As reported by Reuters, the chairman of the drafting committee, Somchai Sawangkarn, said in a televised parliamentary session, “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people”.

Recreational use of cannabis, which still classifies cannabis as a schedule 5 drug, remains illegal in Thailand. Possession of larger quantities can still incur the death penalty, as well as in neighboring countries, despite the fact that cannabis was a traditional medicine sold by apothecaries to relieve pain and fatigue until its prohibition in the 1930s.

The use of cannabis for any purpose is illegal across much of Southeast Asia, a region which has some of the harshest penalties outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Cannabis traffickers can also be subject to the death penalty in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Will Malaysia follow suit?

Perhaps inspired by the progressive actions of its neighbor, the bordering country of Malaysia is currently contemplating its own legislation to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Although doctors are exempt from prosecution under the new law, anyone else caught carrying more than 10 kilograms of “ganga”, or “kancha” as it is known colloquially, will face charges of possession with intent to illegally distribute. In addition, possession of less than 10kg may still incur a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of Bt100,000, equivalent to $3,068 at the present exchange rate.

The new law will require producers and researchers that handle both cannabis and kratom to obtain licenses, and patients will need prescriptions to obtain both cannabis and kratom for medical purposes.

However, the new law does not address who will supply medical cannabis and kratom to those who are eligible to seek permission to import, export, or prescribe it; including doctors, medical professionals, applied Thai medical practitioners, pharmacists, dentists and class one veterinarians, even though all of the above qualify to produce the plants.

Even though the new law fails to clarify certain issues and stops short of legalizing cannabis for recreational use, the legalization of medicinal cannabis in Thailand reflects a growing worldwide change in the way that both people and governments view cannabis prohibition.

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