Thailand To Legalize Medical Marijuana

By Kelly Burch 12/28/18

More than 99% of the Thai public supported the measure, according to news reports. 

Thailand government voted to legalize medical marijuana

As medical marijuana has become widely accepted in the United States, Thailand will become the first Southeast Asian country to legalize the drug’s use in a medical setting. 

Somchai Sawangkarn, a Thai lawmaker who was involved in the process of drafting the law, said that the change could take place soon.

“This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people,” Sawangkarn said, according to The New York Times

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure, 166 to zero, with 13 members abstaining. However, before the change can become law, Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn must approve it. It seems likely that will happen. 

Cannabis legalization activist Chokwan Chopaka was pleased with the progress, Aljazeera reported

"This is the first baby step forward," Chopaka said. 

Businesses and researchers who want to import, grow or handle medical cannabis will need to be licensed by the government. People who want to use cannabis to treat themselves will need prescriptions. In addition to covering cannabis, the change also covers the medical use of kratom, a Southeast Asian plant some say has medical benefits. 

Thai business leaders want to protect the medical cannabis market from foreign firms, which they say could easily come to dominate it. Panthep Puapongpan, who runs an integrative medicine company in Thailand, said his company will be asking the government for protections.

"We're going to demand that the government revoke all these [foreign] requests before the law takes effect,” Puapongpan said. 

The Bangkok Post reported that more than 99% of the Thai public supported the measure. 

Despite the shifting stance on medical marijuana, Thailand is expected to maintain strict penalties for recreational use of cannabis. Thais who are caught with less than 10 kilograms of cannabis can spend up to five years in prison. 

The Southeast Asian region is known for strict laws around drugs, including the death penalty for users. In August, a man who sold cannabis oil to people with cancer and other illnesses was sentenced to death by hanging after he was convicted of trafficking marijuana. 

However, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that the sentence of Muhammad Lukman Mohamad, 29, should be reexamined. 

“No, I think we should review that,” the Prime Minister said, according to Reuters

Nurul Izzah Anwar, a member of Parliament in Malaysia, agreed. 

“From the reports, it looks to be a miscarriage of justice,” she said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.