Tobacco chiefs slapped down over commercial weed plans
The Tobacco Authority of Thailand (TAT) can apply for a licence to grow cannabis but it will not cover any kind of commercial use, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The stand comes after the government legalised the use of cannabis for medical and research purposes.
On Saturday, the TAT (formerly the Thai Tobacco Monopoly) reportedly proposed to contract farmers that they grow cannabis and hemp for commercial use to make up for a revenue shortfall due to an expected hike in excise tax which will double the retail prices of cigarettes. More expensive cigarettes are predicted to dampen consumer demand and dent the TAT's revenue.
According to the TAT, hemp, especially, could be commercially developed into raw materials for use in the medical industry, automobile parts, garments or even food supplements.
However, a source close to the matter said the use of hemp must be licensed and the farming of the plant is subject to strict regulation.
The Public Health Ministry has granted permission for hemp farming in 15 districts of six provinces, mostly in the North.
But the use of cannabis comes under much stricter control; licences will only be granted for research or medical use.
FDA secretary-general Thares Karassanaiyarawiwong said Sunday the TAT could obtain a licence to plant cannabis for research, not commerce. The agency can request permission either as a researcher or grower. A separate licence is also needed to import cannabis.
The Office of the Narcotics Control Board, meanwhile, said the licensees are restricted to seven groups.
They are state-run research agencies or agencies which teach medicine and related fields; professional practitioners of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary and Thai medicine; privately-run educational institutes which teach or research in medicine or pharmacy; eligible community enterprises made up of farmers which are legally registered; trans-border public transport operators; patients from abroad or going abroad who rely on cannabis medication; and other persons or agencies specified by related ministerial regulations.
Dr Thares said a widespread misconception is afoot that the law has liberalised cannabis farming for commerce and that the licence to grow the plant costs millions of baht.
He insisted qualified licence applicants must furnish details of their projects to the proper authorities and account for any legal consequences that may arise from the cannabis being abused.