The turning point for legalisation of Cannabis in Thailand

The turning point for legalisation of Cannabis in Thailand

In Thailand, cannabis is a plant with a long tradition, used for a long time in the field of traditional medicine and subsequently forbidden in the Thirties.

After decades of “prohibitionism”, the Thai parliament approved the law for legalisation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, modifying the previous law regarding the possession and the sales of narcotic substances, which dated back to 1970.

With 166 votes in favour and only three against, the National Assembly – nominated by the military junta, in power since 2014 – amended the law on narcotics in force since 1979, rendering the production, the importation, the possession and the use of marijuana and also products containing kratom, a local plant used as a stimulant,  legal.

The penalties – which can arrive to life sentence for traffickers – remain unchanged with regards to narcotics for non-medical use.  

The new law allows the possession of cannabis in limited quantities, when accompanied by a medical prescription or by a specific certificate: the licenses for the production and the sales of cannabis will be controlled by the Government.

The political turning point on cannabis

The real turning point regarding drug policies started in 2015 under the impulse of general Paiboon Koomchaya, the then Minister of Justice, who designed a map of decriminalisation of drug consumption in the country, with a systematic reform of the regulatory framework and of the services on drugs.

The reform project outlived the various changes in government and the long phase of succession to the throne after the death of Rama IX on October 13, 2016 and the accession to the throne after over a year of mourning of Rama X’s son.

Today one can assist the first step towards responsibility of services in favour of individuals with problem drug use, by the Ministry of Justice up to the Ministry of Health.

A competence which seems to be obvious but which in the Indochina Peninsula represents a very important turning point.

The future challenge is that of constructing a new legislative approach and services with a view to respect for human rights and to the right to health.

Past January fuoriluogo.it interviewed Verapun Ngammee on the topic, Executive Director of the Ozone Foundation, who has over 15 years of experience in harm reduction services in Thailand.

“The Ozone Foundation is an association which involves drug consumers in Thailand, It offers services of harm reduction in 12 provinces of the country, services like the free distribution of condoms and clean syringes, as well as supplying information on the risks of drug consumption and on the various factors influencing them, like the quality of the substance, the way to consume it, the setting of consumption and the reason for using it. Moreover, the foundation is also working very hard to promote a modification in the drug policies and a reform of the legislative framework on drugs in Thailand ”.

Drug-related offences can be punished with death penalty or with life sentence, even though the sentences of capital punishment have not been applied for years now, and reforms are in place to abolish death penalty for all offences”.

Various NGO’s in Thailand played an important role in the current reform process both through the support of the Institutions and through the promotion of international experiences.

We ask the foreign NGO’s and the Drug Forum to maintain their focus on what is happening in Thailand, both to support its reform process and to promote the example at international level.

What is happening in Thailand could be an example to commence the reforms in other Asian countries as well.

The “Cannabis” topic is increasingly at the centre of interest and debate throughout the world, with all its nuances, which in many cases can generate confusion and misunderstanding, if observed superficially.

Therapeutic Cannabis, which are the differences between Therapeutic and light?

This is one of the questions we hear most often being asked by individuals daily. Let’s therefore start by giving clarity by talking about what concerns us more closely.  

In Italy there are numerous companies which commercialize the so-called cannabis light or legal cannabis. With this term the companies refer to the inflorescences of industrial cannabis (hemp), containing an active principle not superior to 0.6%.

According to the Italian law no. 242 approved in December 2016 the production and marketing in Italy of industrial hemp is permitted when the presence of THC does not exceed 0.2% and the seeds are included in the Directive 202/53 of the European Union.

In the event that the percentage of THC is superior to 0.2% but remains within the limit of 0.6%, the farmer is relieved of any liability.

If on the other hand, the limit of 0.6% is exceeded, the judicial authorities can destroy or confiscate the field. Law no. 242 prohibits also the importation of seeds not listed in the European catalogue.  

It should be reminded that the percentages, starting from 0.5% in inflorescences used for recreational purposes  will fall under the context of the application of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

What do we mean when we use the term Therapeutic Cannabis?

In Italy, physicians can prescribe magistral preparations containing active plant substances containing cannabis for medical use to be prepared in authorised structures.

The inflorescences for the galenic preparations are produced by the Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Plant of Florence.

As provided for in the Ministerial Decree of November 9, 2015 the prescription of cannabis “for medical use” in Italy is limited to its application in “chronic pain and pain associated to multiple sclerosis, as well as in spinal cord injuries; in nausea and vomit caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, HIV therapies; as an appetite stimulant in cachexia, anorexia, loss of appetite in cancer patients or patients affected by AIDS, in anorexia nervosa; for its hypotensive effect in glaucoma; the reduction of involuntary movements of the body and the face in the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome”.

Cannabis, what does the Law say in Italy?

In Italy Cannabis is illegal, only personal use is allowed, which has been decriminalized but is punishable with administrative disciplinary sanctions.

This norm is regulated by the Presidential Decree no. 309/1990, constituting the Single Convention of the Laws regulating drugs and psychotropic substances, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of the related states of drug addiction.

Obviously, we are here talking about a substance which is completely different from the so-called therapeutic cannabis, as explained by doctor Vittorio Guardamagna, director of the department of Pain Therapy at the IEO of  Milan, “The substances contained in the inflorescences of cannabis vary from plant to plant. In order to obtain a therapeutic effect the various components need to be balanced in a controlled manner. This is why marijuana purchased through non-official channels cannot be considered a medical drug”.

Cannabis, what is happening in Europe and in the rest of the World?

“The Member States should allow physicians to use their professional judgement in prescribing cannabis medicines, and, if effective, these medical drugs should be covered by the health insurance systems like all others”.

This is the request forwarded on last February, 14 by the Euro-parliament in a non-binding resolution adopted by the show of hands.

The Strasburg Hall has underlined how the cannabis drug administration would be translated in additional revenue for the authorities, while limiting the black market and guaranteeing quality and labelling accuracy.

The members of the European Parliament asked the member States to reinforce research, using the potentials of cannabis medicines. The plenary session of Strasburg invited the Commission and the national authorities to operate a clear distinction between medical use and the other uses of cannabis.

In the rest of the world cannabis is completely legal in Canada, while in the United States it is legal only in some States. Personal use is legal in South Africa, the Netherlands, Colombia, Chile e Spain.

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