In an effort to promote the development of cannabis products for medical purposes, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has removed the seeds and oils extracted from some marijuana plants, particularly hemp, from the list of controlled substances.
Hemp is classified as a Category 5 narcotic. Category 5 narcotics carry a possible jail term of 15 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million baht.
The new rules would remove cannabis and hemp plants that have less than 0.2% THC content (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) making way for their introduction into traditional medicines, food products, and cosmetics. For at least the first five years, only licensed producers will be allowed to use hemp plants in their products.
Secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Tares Krassanairawiwong, stated that agency would be amending regulations to allow companies to begin growing hemp as a cash crop.
While this is seen as yet another victory for marijuana activists, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk noted that unlicensed people growing or possessing marijuana and hemp plants without licenses or permits is still prohibited.
According to the FDA website, only 334 permits have been issued.
While Thai officials have been careful to proceed in legalizing marijuana for both economic and medical purposes, Thailand’s cannabis market is expected to reach $660 million by 2024, according to analysis firm Prohibition Partners.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s political party ran on a pro-marijuana agenda and has used his ministry position to push forward changes to Thailand’s marijuana laws.
Meanwhile law enforcement agencies and politicians from other political parties have called for more incremental change.