Friday, September 18, 2020

Anutin-led ministry to fully promote medical cannabis

Jul 21. 2019
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By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

The newly formed government has promised a bright future for medical cannabis in Thailand, after pledging to move forward with the medical cannabis policy to ensure access to cannabinoid medicines and also give people the right to grow cannabis legally at home.

However, some medical experts have expressed concern and are urging the government to reconsider this policy, warning that the imprudent promotion of medical cannabis will cause more harm than good to society.

After officially taking over as new Public Health Minister on Thursday, Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the leader of the government’s coalition partner Bhumjaithai Party, announced his vision and plan to push forward the medical cannabis policy. He said the ministry under his leadership will fully promote the use of cannabis for medical purposes with the prime objective of ensuring easy access to cannabinoid medicines for all patients.

Anutin said the ministry would register cannabinoid medicines on the National List of Essential Medicines in order to bring it under the Universal Coverage Scheme.

He also revealed that the government was planning to legalise the planting of cannabis and allowing people to grow up to six cannabis plants at home in order to make it even easier to use cannabis as a household herbal medicine.

“We realise that it is not easy to achieve our ultimate goal of medical cannabis liberalisation, because there are many obstructions from laws and regulations both within our ministry and at related agencies,” he said.

“However, we are still committed to the medical cannabis policy as far as we can by reforming the regulations and management system of our ministry to suit our course and by closely coordinating with all related agencies, especially the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, to let them amend regulations on their side which are hindering the medical cannabis liberalisation efforts.”

Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai said that by next month every hospital under the Public Health Ministry will be ready to prescribe the first batch of standardised cannabinoid medicines to registered patients

Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre Board member Dr Bundit Sornpaisarn, however, warned that the Bhumjaithai medical cannabis policy would give too much freedom for cannabis usage, which could adversely affect society and eventually undermine the stability of the government.

Bundit pointed out that lack of proper controls in this policy to restrict the owning and consumption of cannabis will expose large loopholes for cannabis abuse, especially among the young generation, which could lead to various social problems such as addiction, traffic accidents from driving under the influence of cannabis, health problems, and brain development issues in the youths.

“Though the amendment to the Narcotics Act has already legalised the use of cannabis for medical purposes, the planting and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes remains illegal under the country’s as well as international laws,” he said.

“Therefore, the government needs to come out with stronger cannabis-control measures to discourage the abuse of medical cannabis and prevent them from falling into the hands of people who are not registered patients and into the narcotics black market.”

He also called for intensive regulation of cannabis for medical use, as not every kind of sickness could be cured with cannabinoid medicines. Patients also have to strictly follow medical advice and carefully take the cannabinoid medicines under a doctor’s guidance.

Anutin assured that the government’s cannabis policy was solely for medical research and treatment and not for recreational use.

He agreed that after legalising general cannabis planting, people would have full rights over how to use the cannabis in their homes, but he warned that it would still be illegal to sell or buy cannabis.

“Cannabis is similar to every other thing. It has both pros and cons, so it is up to us to use it wisely and benefit from it or abuse it and suffer the negative consequences,” he said.

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