By THE NATION
The walk, which began in Phichit last month, underlined in particular the legal impasse that is blocking marijuana’s use for medical purposes. The campaigners called for wider public access to cannabis for this purpose.
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Wiwat Salyakamthorn, attending a forum in Suphan Buri yesterday, said the walk’s intention was not to get marijuana removed from the government’s list of dangerous narcotics but to give people better access to the medicine derived.
The beneficial properties of cannabis are well documented, but the government has for decades kept it under strict control, he said. Advocates need to study the legal limitations to unlock access.
Supachai Jaisamut, deputy secretary general of the Bhumjaithai Party, which campaigned for medical marijuana ahead of the March election, said it would keep the pressure on to ease restrictions. The party is lobbying for a seat on Prayut Chan-o-cha’s new Cabinet in the hope of implementing its cannabis policy.
“We are ready to take proposals from the people and push ahead for the government to enforce the policy,” Supachai said.
Rossana Kosittrakul, a former member of the junta-sponsored reform council, expressed doubt that the government had a “hidden agenda” to allow only selected large corporations to cultivate cannabis for medical use. Such a restriction would block the wider public’s access to medical cannabis, she said.
It made sense for the government to exert controls that guard against marijuana being contaminated with chemicals, rendering it useless for medical research, she said. “Why doesn’t the government just get rid of the contaminated samples?”
Campaigners for medical cannabis adamantly want marijuana stricken from the narcotics list so that people could to grow it for crafting OTOP (One tambon, one product) items, Rossana said. She suggested adding the medicine derived to the universal healthcare scheme, by which it would be available at state-run hospitals.
Dr Teerawat Hemajutha, head of the Information Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, said his long-time research indicated that marijuana-based medical treatment would help cure neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
“I’m not saying it’s a panacea for every disease, but it could help with some,” he said, citing as an example Alzheimer sufferers who became far more able to communicate with others after being given cannabis oil for one month.
Panthep Puapongpan of Rangsit University said he supported getting marijuana off the narcotics list and believed even an unrefined plant could be used as herb.
Patients with the correct certification should be allowed to grow marijuana for treating their own medical conditions, he suggested.
Chulalongkorn University pharmacist Niyada Kiatying-angsuree said the government should authorise communities to cultivate cannabis for their own medical needs, leaving only commercial plantations under state control.