By THE NATION
A NEW LAW that legitimises the use of marijuana for medical purposes sailed through the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday with overwhelming support.
Under the law, possession of marijuana and krathom within legal limits will be allowed for treatment of certain diseases, for first aid or in cases of emergency.
However, anyone possessing more than 10 kilograms of marijuana will be treated as having the intent to sell it illegally.
The possession of marijuana for purposes other than the strict limits outlined under the law remains liable to legal action.
Those found in possession of less than 10 kilograms of marijuana could still face up to five years in jail and a fine of Bt100,000.
Anyone possessing more than 10 kilograms of the drug risks imprisonment of between one and 15 years, and a fine of between Bt100,000 and Bt1 million.
The NLA yesterday voted 166-0, with 13 abstentions, to pass the draft law deliberated on by a committee chaired by Somchai Sawangkarn.
The law amends the existing Narcotic Drugs Act of 1979. The amendment increases to 25 the members on the National Narcotics Control Committee, up from 17. The eight new members include the permanent secretary of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, the director-general of the Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, and the director-general of the Department of Health Service Support.
The committee has the authority to give permission to requests for production, import and export of marijuana, and also to approve regulations proposed by relevant state agencies.
After the law has been in force for three years, the committee is required to review all permissions every six months.
‘A necessary amount’
The law allows possession of “a necessary amount” of marijuana for medical treatment.
Those in possession of the drug for this purpose need to carry a doctor’s prescription.
It will also be legal under the new law to possess marijuana for research and development as well as agricultural, commercial, scientific and industrial purposes.
Among those permitted to possess marijuana are patients who need the drug for treatment, state agencies responsible for research or medicine-related education, Thai Red Cross, anti-narcotics agencies, institutions of higher education with research and teaching on medicine, and registered farmer groups.
With this law going into effect, the growing of marijuana and processing within the legal limit will be allowed, under close supervision by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board.
Meanwhile, Biothai Foundation director Witoon Lianchamroon warned yesterday that transnational companies and giant drug firms with patents for medicines with marijuana content would be the main beneficiaries of the legal easing. He said that requests made by those businesses for patents in Thailand have not been cancelled, as claimed earlier by Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong.
Rangsit University will on December 28 petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission against the Department of Intellectual Property regarding this matter, Panthep Puapongpan, one of its deans, said yesterday.
He said the university aims to force the department to rescind international applications for patents before the new law goes into effect.
The bill will be forwarded for royal endorsement before being published in the Royal Gazette.