31 December 2018

On December 26thThe National Legislative Assembly of Thailand (NLA) passed the second and third readings of an amendment to the narcotics law legalising the production, import, export, possession and use of cannabis and kratom products for medical purposes.

Kratom Tree

This is the first country in South East Asia and the first ASEAN country (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to legalize medical Marijuana and Kratom. The ASEAN countries have some of the harshest drug laws in the world with the death penalty frequently been given to importers and dealers in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.  

Thailand is known to have had a long history of the use of traditional plant medicines and both species were outlawed by political motivations in the early 1930’s so it comes as no surprise that Thailand would be the pioneer of the area to release these two powerful medicinal plants from political corruption and persecution.

The Bangkok Post reported that Individuals who obtain prescriptions from medical, dental and alternative medicine professionals will be allowed to legally possess and use the plants after the amendment is published in the Government Gazette.

Thai farmers welcomed the new law allowing cultivation and use of marijuana and Kratom for medical purposes, in an Asian first that promises an economic bonanza but also fears that foreign companies could reap the rewards.The move is a significant step for a region that levies harsh sentences for drug violations. It would also allow for the production, import and export of marijuana. The National Farmers Council of Thailand praised the law as providing a "new economic crop" to help farmers diversify their production.

Confiscated Thai marijuana.

When the changes were first introduced, the wording of the bill noted that “many countries around the world [have moved] to ease their laws by enacting legal amendments to allow their citizens to legally use kratom and marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes,” according to the Associated Press.

Some in Thailand had raised concerns about the change, fearing that the legislative move would not adequately benefit the local population. But Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong attempted to alleviate those worries prior to the vote, insisting that the government would ensure the primary benefits would go to Thai citizens.

“Don't be worried,” he said, according to local reports. Prajin explained that legalization would be carried out and managed under direct government control.

The eight additions were the permanent secretary for agriculture and the chiefs of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, the Department of Industrial Works, the Department of Health Service Support, the Department of Mental Health, the Medical Council of Thailand, the Thai Traditional Medical Council and the Pharmacy Council of Thailand.

The law authorises the committee to approve the production, import, export and possession of cannabis and kratom as well as related regulations.

It permits the use of cannabis and kratom for government and medical benefits, the treatment of patients, research and development, agriculture, commerce, science and industry.

Culturally Cannabis is popular in Thailand.

The bill received 166 votes in favour with 13 abstentions. The final version sees a bigger narcotics control committee with 25 members instead of 17.

Consumers will be able to carry specified amounts necessary for treatment of illness if they have prescriptions or certificates from professionals in medicine, dentistry, Thai traditional and alternative medicine or indigenous medicine. Possession will be subject to conditions approved by the narcotics control committee.

Licences for the production, import, export, sale and possession of cannabis and kratom will be for government organisations tasked with medical and agricultural research and education and narcotics suppression, the Thai Red Cross Society, Thai traditional and indigenous medical professions, medical universities, registered community-based farmers' organisations,international transport operators, international travelling patients who need to carry narcotics and those approved by the public health minister.

The licences can be transferred to heirs or specified recipients if the licensees die before their licences expire. Violators will be liable to five to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to B1 million, depending on the amounts of cannabis and kratom illegally in their possession.

The amendment will become law only when it is published in the Government Gazette.



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