Thailand: Rolling out medical cannabis

If all goes as planned, Thai citizens suffering from cancer and a handful of other diseases and disorders could start taking the country's first legal doses of medical cannabis within days.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organization delivered its premier batch of cannabis oil to the Ministry of Public Health last week, eight months after Thailand became the first country to legalize the drug for medical use in Southeast Asia, a region known more for its harsh anti-drug laws.

The 5-milliliter bottles are being rolled out to 12 hospitals across the country that will in turn dole out doses to the first 4,000 registered patients. Somsak Akkslip, director general of the Health Ministry's Medical Services Department, told VOA that those hospitals could start prescribing the medicine as soon as the end of this week.

Thailand's then-military junta amended the country's tough narcotics laws in December in a bid to cash in on a flowering global medical cannabis industry projected to be worth $5.8 billion by 2024 in Asia alone, according to Prohibition Partners, a UK-based research group.

The cause received a major boost in March, when the Bhumjaithai party made a strong showing in the general election on a platform to fully legalize cannabis, the psychotropic variety of cannabis. The party splashed pictures of the plant's pointy leaves across its posters while its president, Anutin Charnvirakul, preached the profit potential of giving each household the right to grow up to six pot plants each.


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