By The Nation
Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) had begun harvesting medical-grade cannabis to use in producing cannabinoid medicines, so doses should be ready as early as the end of this month.
Dr Piyasakol said the GPO would prepare 10,000 drops of cannabis oil to be taken sublingually (under the tongue) and Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital another 5,000 doses.
He acknowledged the initial amount was not enough to meet demand and would in fact be entirely distributed among volunteers enrolled in a trial process.
But he promised that production would be expanded in coming phases to ensure an adequate supply.
“In the first phase from July to September, people who have been certified by a doctor as being likely to benefit from cannabis can only get their prescribed medicine at major hospitals in Bangkok and the provincial hospitals,” Piyasakol said.
“In the second phase, starting by April next year, they’ll have access to the medicine at every hospital.”
He said the ministry had meanwhile prepared guidelines for both medical practitioners and recipients to ensure the distribution system is efficient and circumspective and to prevent abuses or inappropriate access.
GPO chairman Dr Sopon Mekthon said his agency planned to expand cultivation by investing in new greenhouses.
“It not only assures larger cannabis yields but also helps reduce production costs by up to eightfold, compared to cultivating in a normal indoor situation,” Sopon said.
“We are now studying the types and specifications of greenhouses suited to intensive cannabis cultivation and expect to start construction next year.”
Sopon noted that the World Health Organisation could drop CBD (major chemical compound cannabidiol) from its list of illicit narcotics next year, which would remove a prohibition on planting specific strains that have CBD as the primary component. Licensed farmers would be able to cultivate these strains, he said.
“If people are allowed to legally plant CBD-rich cannabis, we plan to buy the crops from them on a contractual basis as another way to obtain more cannabis for producing medicine.
“But the GPO will only accept cannabis that meets our medical-grade standards to ensure the safety of our products.”
Sopon said the GPO had already begun cultivating CBD-rich cannabis itself to be ready for the WHO policy change anticipated next year.