Thailand's Medical Cannabis Legalization
As Thailand's National Legislative Assembly agreed to amend the country's drug law to allow the medical use of marijuana. Thailand then became the first country in South-East Asia to legalize medical cannabis with the aim to benefit not only patients who need it but also farmers, research institutes by the government, medical schools, pharmacy schools, pharmaceutical laboratories, public and private universities as well as hospitals and clinics researchers. This also indicates Thailand's goals to become a key player in the SEA region.
The new law only allows people with illnesses who need cannabis treatment to consume this non-lawful drug under a limited carrying amount specified by the Public Health Ministry. However, the drug must be produced by licensed medical practitioners.
There are four business sectors that need to be distinguished. Firstly, the cultivation for the medical use of Marijauna. Secondly, the development and research of Marijauna products. Thirdly, the recreation of drugs and lastly, covers measures and products related to the industry. It is possible for businesses to hold the license for manufacturing, to sell, importing, exporting, and possession of cannabis. However, the licensing process is quite complicated.
The license comes in a two-step process. The company should firstly get a routine non-narcotic pharmaceutical production license from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before applying to become an authorized person under the health ministry. This license, together with the status as the health ministry authorized person, will allow the firm to be able to apply for a narcotic cannabis production license which is also issued by the FDA. However, it will be quicker for an existing pharmaceutical company which already holds a normal FDA drug production to get a second FDA production license.
These FDA licenses will allow the company to sell and distribute finished cannabis medicine products in Thailand's market. While an additional sales license is not required, but the regular registration of drug formulas is still needed. Yet, it will be better for the companies to get excellent legal advice in order to invest in Thailand's cannabis industry. Without an authorized FDA licensing, cannabis still remains as an illicit drug. If a person got caught possessing 10 kilograms or more deemed intent to sell, the penalty for this person is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of 1.5 million baht (USD$45,000).
Furthermore, private companies are still unable to get a permitted license, but it does not mean that private enterprises are fully excluded from the market. It is legal for private companies to cultivate cannabis with the coordination with one of the authorized groups under the license. The company must also be registered under the Thai law with an office registered in Thailand and having at least two/thirds of Thai nationals directors, partners or shareholders. This is a protective measure to protect state-owned investments from big players from overseas. The "Guideline for approval of a request for plantation of cannabis B.E. 2562" has specified these limitations which defines four groups qualified for approval for cultivation:
- Governmental authorities who have duties to research, teaching or provide public services,
- Institutions of higher education,
- Persons of the agricultural professionals who join the registered community enterprise,
- Other applicants who are approved by the Committee announced by the Minister in ministerial regulations.