New pot law 'won't lead to monopoly'
The Ministry of Public Health insisted Monday that the amended Narcotics Act that legalised the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical and research purposes will not lead to a monopoly by large companies, and urged the public to study the law thoroughly.
Minister of Public Health, Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, made the statement as criticism continues to mount over restrictions laid out in the amended legislation, which critics say favours big firms over smaller, independent researchers.
Dr Piyasakol insisted that under the amended legislation, marijuana is still classified as a narcotic but it can be legally used for medical research and treatment and the public needs to understand the issue.
"This law isn't intended to favour anyone but the country. The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is a regulator, not a manufacturer. I'm encouraging everyone to study the law carefully," he said.
According to Dr Piyasakol, the law also contains a provisional chapter which states that marijuana use will be strictly controlled by the state for at least five years before the law is reviewed to examine its effectiveness.
Without this provision, Dr Piyasakol said foreign companies that already produce marijuana-based drugs would be able to make a profit from the legalisation of marijuana right away.
He also said the five-year provision is meant to help the country develop its capacity to cultivate and use the plant for medical and research purposes.
Dr Piyasakol said the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation's first legal marijuana project will be the harvesting of premium medical-grade marijuana for further study.
He said that while there are different ways to grow medical marijuana, cultivation must be subject to strict supervision.
"You just can't grow it anywhere, and anyone shouldn't be able to pick the buds whenever they want," he said.
"We're not introducing these rules to put anyone at a disadvantage."
Dr Piyasakol added that the Public Health Ministry is currently preparing a number of guideline and books relating to the cultivation and use of medical marijuana.