A medical expert has revealed that Thailand could become a medical marijuana hub in the region if the drug is decriminalized. This possibility has been confirmed by various patients whose health improved after being treated with Thai cannabis extracts.
Over the past couple of months, there have been clear signs from both state and non-state agencies that Thailand is moving towards to decriminalizing soft drugs including marijuana, kratom and methamphetamine by the end of 2016, or 2017 at the latest. The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Health, the National Farmers Council and the Narcotics Control Board have shown their support and optimism for the policy.
The Minister of Justice, Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, has proposed removing marijuana from Thailand’s narcotics list and reclassifying it as a household herbal plant
. If the policy is enacted, every household in Thailand will be allowed to grow marijuana. This is a progressive move since most countries in the world continue to regulate the drug’s use.
However not everyone agrees with the proposed policy. Bunchai Somboonsook, Secretary-General of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has said that the FDA will neither decriminalize nor legalize marijuana in the near future. Bunchai also urged the public not to believe that marijuana can cure cancer, saying there is no credible research.
In a related development, on 6 July, a group of female Buddhists filed a petition to the junta head, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, urging him to dismiss Gen Paiboon for allegedly “destroying Thailand’s good morality”
. The group also said that drugs are an evil and the root cause of all turbulence in the country.
These circumstances indicate that the decriminalization of marijuana will not be a smooth process. Friction between state agencies and the social stigma against drugs are both big challenges.
Still, there are some Thai citizens who have not waited for legalization to receive medical marijuana treatments. The following patients received cannabis oils from a local traditional doctor who produces them illegally. They may prove that Thailand has a high potential to become a medical marijuana hub of Asia.
Piyamat Lekdaeng, a 40-year-old food seller, is a mother of eight-year-old Nano (pseudonym), a cerebral palsy patient. Piyamat revealed to Prachatai that Nano has received marijuana oil treatments for more than six months and her daughter’s health has shown a consistent and remarkable improvement.
Previously, cerebral palsy caused Nano to experience frequent episodes of epilepsy and severe fevers. The epilepsy obstructed Nano from properly receiving the physical therapy that is necessary for cerebral palsy patients. Nano also could not see because her brain was damaged by her chronic episodes of epilepsy. However, after receiving two drops of cannabis oil per day, Nano’s epilepsy episodes have significantly dropped.
Piyamat also said that the cannabis extracts are lessening Nano’s visual impairment. Previously, when Piyamat walked past her daughter, Nano would not notice her, but now she cries or waves her hands to show she can see her.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, can ease tension in those who consume it. This may be beneficial for cerebral palsy patients since the happier patients feel, the easier it is for them to receive physical therapy. In contrast, if patients feel tense, they suffer epilepsy very easily. Although the substance cannot completely cure the symptoms of cerebral palsy, it can help patients live happily.
“If her (Nano) brain is getting better like this, a lot of good things will follow. Now she wants to sit while, previously, she only lay down all day long. Now she smiles and laughs very happily,” said Piyamat.
Kamhom (pseudonym), a five-year-old cerebral palsy patient, has also been consistently healthier after receiving marijuana oil treatment. Kamhom’s mother, Sasinan Sithong, a 32-year-old food seller, told Prachatai that Kamhom has suffered from cerebral palsy since she was born as a result of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy.
Kamhom has a small cerebrum, causing her to suffer episodes of chronic epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux disease, pneumonia and other complications. Her epilepsy was so severe that she once sprained her hip during an episode that required surgery. When she felt tense, she would harm herself by punching her body and pulling her hair.
Sasinan told Prachatai that Kamhom’s health improved obviously after only a week of cannabis oil treatment. Her muscles were at ease and her self-harm problems subsided. While previously she would occasionally suffer from pneumonia, this complication disappeared after receiving marijuana treatment. Her cognitive functions also improved and she can now interact with her surroundings.
Marijuana not only improved Kamhom’s health, it also benefitted her mother’s life.
“Previously, I could not do my job at all. I had to come back to see if she was still alright every half an hour but now I can leave her for two or three hours without being worried,” said Sasinan. “I know that her symptoms are incurable but I just want her to stay with me happily as long as possible. And if she passes away, I want her to undergo it happily.”
The secret to Thailand’s success as a potential medical cannabis hub is the country’s climate, where marijuana plants can produce the amounts of THC necessary for medical use.
Somyot Kittimankhong, a doctor who has researched marijuana for medical purposes for more than four years, told Prachatai that Thailand’s climate is advantageous for marijuana quality since the sunlight in Thailand provides the proper conditions for marijuana to produce appropriate amounts of THC.
“Western countries have to use light bulbs with different lambda (the length of light waves) in order to yield a proper amount of THC. That’s not necessary in Thailand because we can produce all ranges of lambda relying on sunlight alone,” the cannabis doctor explained.
Somyot added, however, that if Thailand really wants to push towards being a medical hub, it has to proceed quickly since various NGOs in neighbouring countries including Malaysia and Vietnam are also pushing for the legalization of marijuana.
Additionally, cannabis oils nowadays are extracted from illegal marijuana that sometimes contains dangerous substances like insecticide. Therefore it is crucial for the state to legalize the plant so Thailand can develop clean medical grade marijuana and quality methods of extraction.
Somyot also suggested that the legalization of marijuana in Thailand should be led by the military regime since soldiers are more familiar with marijuana than governmental officials.
“I have talked to many soldiers who have operated in remote or border areas. They have used marijuana to ease their tense moods … Soldiers understand that marijuana is not an addictive drug,” Somyot explained. “Therefore, it’s unsurprising for me that Gen Paiboon Koomchaya wants to legalize it. He might have some underlings who smoke marijuana. He has a better understanding than those civil servants who are brainwashed into thinking that marijuana is an addictive drug.”