Wednesday, January 16th 2019
Medical Marijuana Legalized in Thailand
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Of the ranks of countries legalizing medical marijuana, Thailand most likely jumps out as the least likely. In a country where marijuana is seen as a Schedule 5 drug—which carries with it a death sentence for trafficking—you would never expect medical marijuana legislation to be passed here. In fact, it is the first country in Southeast Asia to do so. Nevertheless, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed a new Narcotics Act with a parliamentary vote of 166 – 0, with 13 abstentions. In addition to legalizing medical marijuana, they voted to increase National Narcotics Control Committee from 17 members to 25 members, as well as legalize the use of kratom (a traditional painkiller and stimulant in the coffee family).
WHEN DOES THE NEW NARCOTICS ACT TAKE EFFECT?
Voted through on Christmas day, 2018, the new law takes effect when the law is published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette—typically in the next 4 months. It is clear that overwhelming support to amend the Narcotics Act of 1979 indicates a push for Thailand to soften its stance on medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana use will remain illegal for the foreseeable future, with fines and prison terms commensurate on the quantities involved. Possession of less than 10kg can still incur a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a 100,000 THB fine (roughly $3,000 USD). Anyone caught with more than 10kg of kancha—as marijuana is known colloquially in Thailand—will be charged with intent to illegally distribute.
However, if it follows the model set by states like California or Oregon, then getting your doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana could end up being a simple, straight-forward process for a myriad of symptoms. Marijuana has been shown to treat a multitude of symptoms, from brain-related conditions like epilepsy to gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease. This will legalize the import, export, production, possession, and use of medical marijuana. The bill that introduced the changes in legislation noted the medicinal benefits of marijuana, stating that these benefits have motivated many countries around the world to enact similar legislation.
HISTORY OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN THAILAND:
Cannabis was originally introduced to Thailand from India. This is evidenced by the fact that Thailand calls marijuana by its Hindu name “ganja”. Very much like the United States, medical marijuana used to be sold in Thailand before the 1930s. It was also used as a muscle relaxer by day laborers, used to ease women’s labor pains, and was also a condiment in cooking as a viable source of fiber. Sold in apothecaries, marijuana was a part of traditional medicine which helps alleviate pain and increase appetite.
In 1935 C.D. (2477), the sale and possession of marijuana was criminalized by the Cannabis Act and was further criminalized during the Narcotics Act of 1979 (2522). Despite this, the culture toward marijuana has softened over the last several decades, though not completely. Tourists do end up in jail if they are duped into purchasing the drug from undercover sources.
WHO WILL QUALIFY FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN THAILAND?
Firstly, only purveyors, producers, and researchers will be granted a license to handle the cultivation of marijuana. Users will need prescriptions, and it does not seem likely that they will be able to cultivate their own marijuana for medicinal use—though the law does not mention specifically who will supply medical marijuana or kratom to those who are eligible. Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, class one veterinarians, applied Thai medicine practitioners, and other medical professionals will all qualify to issue prescriptions. In addition, several government agencies, including “departments and local administration organizations” will qualify to produce the plants, however, these organizations have not been fully specified. According to the NLA, the Thai Red Cross Society and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization will also be eligible.
BIG PHARMA PATENTS FOR MARIJUANA IN THAILAND:
As reported by The Nation, the Thai Intellectual Property Department (IP)has been accused of corruption concerning medical marijuana patents in Thailand. It seems that the IP has been issuing ineligible cannabinoid medicine patent registration applications prior to the legalization of medical marijuana in Thailand. This is said to benefit big pharmaceutical companies to give them a headstart on patenting cannabis products ahead of Thai medical research and national development. Thus they have put the interestest of pharmaceutical conglomerates over those of the interests of the Thai people and their traditional medicinal approach.
A coalition of academics activists, independent organizations, NGOs, and other related groups called the Free Trade Agreement Watch have joined forces to demand that the Thai Intellectual Property Department “disclose all information and related to every cannabinoid drug patent application it has received. . . [and] immediately freeze all cannabinoid drug patent registrations, which violate intellectual property laws.” For more information on this blossoming controversy, click here.
How to Get Medical Marijuana in Thailand:
Though it is unclear as to how medical marijuana will unfold in Thailand, both Thais and farang are curious as to how a nation with such a restrictive approach to marijuana will administer this program.
For those who have a legitimate reason to require medical marijuana in Thailand, there is a way to get your medicine before the nuances of the implementation of the medical marijuana law in Thailand come about. If you suffer from a condition and require medical marijuana in Thailand, then you can register under an amnesty program rolled out by the Thai Food and Drug Administration.
As of now, this program is only available for medical marijuana and not kratom, despite kratom’s inclusion in the law that decriminalizes medical marijuana in Thailand.
*For more information on which uses are approved for medical marijuana in Thailand, click here.
The first step that you must do is to obtain a medical certificate that verifies your condition for the Thai government. This medical certificate can be issued by a certified doctor, a practitioner of traditional Thai medicine, or a dentist. Following this, they register with the Thai Food and Drug Administration per the following steps:
*Note: Farang are eligible, just be aware that the official documents are in Thai. You may need help filling out the paperwork.
What You Will Need To Get Medical Marijuana in Thailand:
To get the documents and goods for your permit to legally use medical marijuana in Thailand, you will need the following:
- Your medical certificate with an eligible medical condition
- A form of legal identification such as a Thai ID Card or your passport
- A completed application form with all relevant information. Click here for the application form.
You must also bring your medical marijuana with you. This quantity cannot exceed a 90-day supply. This quantity will need to be justified. If you have an excessive amount, then you will have to surrender the rest to the Thai Food and Drug Administration. You will have to fill out another form—which you can get by clicking here.
If you have too much supply to take with you to the Thai Food and Drug Administration, then you will have to bring a photo with you of all your marijuana, and then schedule a date with the department staff for an inspection of your medical marijuana.
If you are too ill to schedule an appointment, then you can set someone to act as your representative. This person must be listed on the application form in the appropriate section.
Where To Go To Get Medical Marijuana in Thailand:
If you are in Bangkok, then you can take everything listed above to the Central Offices of the Thai Food and Drug Administration—specifically Building 6. Click here for directions.
If you are outside of Bangkok, then you can go to any Provincial Public Health Office. Click here to find an office near you. If you are using Google, then a window will open up asking you to translate the content because it is all in Thai. If not, you can use Google Translate by clicking here.
About Your Application for Medical Marijuana in Thailand:
If your application is approved, then the officials at the Thai Food and Drug Administration will also sign the application form, and this form will be kept by you as your proof of legalization.
If your application is rejected, then your marijuana will be seized, however, you will not be prosecuted. You will be free to leave without incident.
Can You Get Medical Marijuana in Thailand as a Tourist?
As of now, the only forms of medical marijuana in Thailand allowed by the Health Ministry for this prescription are flowers, oil, and edibles that are meant for consumption. If you are traveling with medical marijuana, you may have your medicine confiscated if it is not in one of these approved forms.
*For more information, click here.
People are advised to carry a copy of their prescription for medical marijuana, and then show it to customs agents upon arrival. Then as soon as you are entered into the country, you should contact the Thai Food and Drug Administration and follow the steps listed above to avoid prosecution. If your medical marijuana in Thailand was seized, then you might be able to get it returned after following the processes with the Thai Food and Drug Administration which are listed above.
Upon arriving at the Food and Drug Administration seeking to be allowed medical marijuana as a tourist, you will need the following:
- A different form that must be completed detailing the amount of medical marijuana in your possession. Click here for that form.
- Your valid passport
- Proof that you are traveling such as airline or train tickets
- A copy of your medical prescription
- A copy of the doctor’s license that prescribed your marijuana
*To contact the Thai Food and Drug Administration, you can call 1556 ext.3_*To contact the Thai Narcotics Control Board, you can call 1386 ext. 3_
Both hotlines are open from 8:30am – 4:00pm.
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