Pot approved for research, medical use
The cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft amendment to the 1979 Narcotics Act to legalise cannabis for medical and research purposes. However, all use of the drug will be kept under strict control.
Government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta said the amended version of the act will "level up" marijuana to a Category 2 drug from its current Category 5 status. Mr Buddhipongse said this means the draft amendment to the law will allow the use, import and export, as well as possession of marijuana exclusively for medical purposes.
The draft amendment deals with the acceptable possession of marijuana for treatments and establishes a new responsibility for the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) to determine areas where marijuana can be used or possessed, as well as areas where it can be grown.
Mr Buddhipongse was speaking on Tuesday after the cabinet approved the draft amendment, submitted by the National Legislative Assembly's (NLA) public health committee. He said patients who wish to use marijuana extracts for medical treatment need to get approval from designated medical practitioners. The amount of the drug possessed may not exceed the appropriate and advised amount for medical purposes.
Marijuana can be used in treatment or research in designated areas to be later determined by the Public Health Ministry, which will work closely with the ONCB, he said.
Furthermore, the ONCB is the only state agency to designate the areas where marijuana can be grown. The areas as well as control measures will be made public, Mr Buddhipongse said.
"This is not the liberalisation of marijuana. This doesn't mean people are allowed to grow marijuana in their backyards. It will still be under control," he said. The Public Health Ministry is also tasked with monitoring the effects of marijuana's usage and production for five years, once the draft amendment is passed by the NLA.
There are currently 26 countries that have allowed the use of medical marijuana, including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, Mr Buddhipongse said.