Homegrowers will be able to sell their remains to the state.

Thailand legalises homegrowing as a decentralised way to supply the state

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Benito Díaz

A year ago, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise the use of medical cannabis. On last November it started supplying the medicines to the first patients in more than 12 hospital centres which will distribute a total number of 4.000 bottles of cannabis oil.

Due to the political instability in Thailand, that meant passing the law that regulates therapeutic cannabis under a military junta regime, dissolved after the elections in March, the cannabis has only now reached the hospitals.

The Health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, claimed in a speech that Thailand is in the process of changing laws so that marijuana can be used freely for other ailments and not just cancer. “We truly believe we can make marijuana one of the main agricultural products of Thai households. We are in the process of accelerating the necessary changes in the law to allow the citizens to work on a crop that would raise their earnings”.

As we pointed out in our previous article, cannabis has historically grown in the wild, producing pure genotypes. However, the severe laws against recreational consumption have prevented it from becoming normal amongst the citizens. Thailand, a country that has reached the percentage of 67.5% of incarcerations for drug related issues, with cannabis being the most recurring drug, has now got a web to explain its therapy uses, and promotes weed in public events.

The novelty proposal from the Minister of Health implies that medical cannabis can be grown in private houses to a maximum of six plants per patient. Afterwards, home-growers would be delivering their crops to the government, who would buy them, finance and endorse the treatment, after a medical approval.

Minister Anutin maintains that in the near future “families will be able to plant cannabis trees in their garden as they do with any other plant”.

Homemade medical cannabis

Main exports from Thailand are related to rubber. The measure, apart from setting a precedent for all nations on this side of the world, will also regenerate the agrarian sector, with strong industrial investments in plantations that, on the other side, have the perfect weather conditions to obtain production levels to compete in the international market. Tobacco companies have already shown interest in producing cannabis cigarettes on a large scale.

In statements to the new website Coconuts Bangkok, the director of the Tobacco Authority, Daonoi Suttinipapunt, claims that pre-rolled cigarettes will be produced as soon as the Ministry of Health approves them. “Our main intention when we asked for a license had to do with the medical benefits, investigation and oil extraction to export to other countries… but if the ministry of Health allows producing cigars, we are ready to do so immediately”.

The cultivation of cannabis with medical qualities is not easy at all. The implementation of measures to control the therapeutic properties of the plant is going to be a complex process that will affect the legislation, and the possibility of carrying it out is expected to take time. This is also the case for the review of laws against recreational cannabis.

Recreational cannabis’ status

For those of you who did not read the previous article, it is important to remember that recreational cannabis is totally forbidden in Thailand, and the ban includes selling, transporting or consuming cannabis in all places, at the risk of costly fines and even imprisonment. Sentences for this type of offences could include or not a penalty for drug trafficking, a potential complication for any tourist. The sentence could lead to spending up to 10 years in prison.

The Minister of Health claimed that legalization of recreational use of cannabis is the next step, although is not probable that it can occur within the four years mandate of the current government. “We need more research and studies before regulating the recreational use of marijuana”, assessed the Minister, as published by Bloomberg news site.

Anutin Charnvirakul caused a great stir leading to the general elections in March, due to this campaign of regulation of homegrowing. His party, Bhum Jai, is now a part of the coalition in power. It is also expected that Thailand’s permissiveness towards cannabis will be observed and even adopted by other nations in its orbit, as they prepare their opening to the new markets now that legality makes it possible.