NLA backs first cannabis bill reading

NLA backs first cannabis bill reading

Agrees to lift curbs, but docs still get say

The National Legislative Assembly has approved the bill on marijuana usage for medical purposes in its first reading but insists that strict controls are still required.

All 145 NLA members, with only one abstainer, unanimously passed the bill at yesterday's session.

The lawmakers agreed with the move to ease restrictions on cannabis and levelling its status from a pure narcotic to prospective medicine. However, they made it clear that an appropriate quantity must be clearly identified only by doctors and researchers.

The members will wait to see complete details of the bill in its final reading after the law is examined by a scrutiny committee, which was set up yesterday.

The committee has been given 60 days to scrutinise the bill before forwarding it back to the NLA for consideration.

The bill was originally designed to contain 17 sections. They mainly involve acceptable possession of marijuana for treatment and a new authority of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board to determine areas of marijuana usage, possession, and plantation areas.

Who can possess cannabis has been already determined, NLA member Somchai Swangkarn said.

They include doctors, traditional Thai practitioners, ministry officials and the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO). All of them are still required to ask the Public Health Ministry for permission before going ahead with their treatments.

Reportedly, the GPO has invested 120 million baht in a new factory to develop cannabis products for medical usage.

It has also examined whether it can make use of dried marijuana confiscated by police instead of disposal.

The organisation late last month sent samples of 100 kilogrammes of cannabis seized by the Narcotics Suppression Bureau to examine contaminants in the drugs.

The results, announced yesterday by the Medical Sciences Department, found traces of harmful pesticides, notably chlorpyrifos, as well as heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury, its chief Opart Karnkawinpong said.

This has halted efforts to extract substances from cannabis.

It's good to know the quality of seized drugs, GPO Research and Development Institute chief Nuntakan Suwanpidokkul said, adding the findings clearly show marijuana is not suitable for any further applications.

The GPO wants only pure marijuana extracts for studies and medicine production.

The organisation is planning to study the right marijuana types for those purposes at its compound in Pathum Thani. It is also surveying an area in Chon Buri's Nong Yai district to grow the plant for making medicine on an industrial scale.

Experts said cannabis extract can be used as an alternative liquid medicine that can be sprayed into the mouth to ease pain caused by demyelinating disease.

Researchers are also studying its potential use in combatting cancer.

The move to "unlock" the use of cannabis has gained massive support. Up to 99% of people surveyed on their views about the draft law via a state-run website agreed with the move, Mr Somchai said.

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