In defiance of the social mores of the bulk of the 20th century, over 20 countries have legalized medical cannabis, while at least four more have expanded their laws to include recreational provisions. It’s a testament to the real power the political pressure of people can place on world governments and the promise of an open and free society. And yet there is still much work to be done.
According to a report from ABC News, global medical cannabis laws expanded last week when a proposal from Thailand’s Public Health Ministry to allow the exportation of cannabis and cannabis derivatives was approved by the country’s cabinet. The new law would specifically allow for health professionals, farmers, and medical patients to grow and export marijuana, assuming the patients are certified by doctors, and the farmers receive permission from the ministry.
Current law is much more limited in its scope. At present, only those within the government and special permission to develop medical cannabis drugs can partake in such activities. Expanding the law will bring a whole host of new stakeholders into the medical cannabis trade within the country.
ABC News first reported that Thailand’s deputy government spokeswoman Trisulee Trisaranakul told them that Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was the person who submitted the draft policy amendment. It would change the Narcotics Act by expanding access to medical cannabis. The new law would also allow for cannabis seized by law enforcement to be appropriated for medical use.
“The law will promote the pharmaceutical industry and increase competitiveness, which will be important for Thailand in becoming a leader in medical cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said, according to Reuters.
For much of its history, Thailand was known as an anti-drug country, with extremely harsh penalties for anyone caught using or selling. Even today, cannabis possession remains punishable by up to 15 years in prison, with fines equivalent to $48,000, according to Reuters.
But today, the country is eyeing the potential economic benefits of medical cannabis, hoping that revenues can help shore up budgetary concerns, especially in the midst of a global economic downturn. In 2018, Thailand not only changed their laws to allow for medical cannabis but for kratom as well, a plant used for its painkilling properties that many compare to opioids.
According to ABC News, the group Prohibition Partners estimates that Asia’s medical cannabis market could be worth $5.8 billion within the next few years.
Earlier this year, Thailand opened its first two medical cannabis dispensaries, advertising them as places where people can go to treat a wide range of ailments.