GPO looks to ensure weed meets needs
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) will this July start extracting oil from marijuana planted in its greenhouses to support medical treatments amid concerns over a lack of cannabis-based medicines.
The GPO is among the agencies allowed to grow marijuana after the government approved its medical use late last year, but it is still unclear whether people should be granted the same right to grow it to increase supply.
Chairman, Sopon Mekthon, on Monday played down the concerns, reasoning both GPO projects and collaboration with other agencies will keep medicine production going.
"We expect to produce the first batch of 2,500 bottles of oil extract to be used as oil drops under tongues," he said, adding the GPO has a capacity to produce up to 10,000 5-cubic-centimetre (CC) bottles a year.
This, Dr Sopon said, has not yet included other medicine projects it is jointly carrying out with universities.
The extract contains substances which can currently be applied to treatments connected to four diseases -- epilepsy in children, demyelinating disease (a type of nerve damage), nausea among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and chronic pain.
The GPO plans to study marijuana's benefits at its laboratories in Pathum Thani.
But despite many studies backing its medical potential, the government is still strictly controlling its use. Public health officials still view marijuana as a narcotic which could lead to drug addiction, Food and Drug Administration secretary-general Tares Krassanairawiwong said.
However, this does not mean the government is closing the door on proposals on appropriate cannabis control. A committee looking at the medical benefits of marijuana recently sent representatives to observe the Phan Buri Ram cannabis fair, in which marijuana seeds were given out to people, deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister ACM Prajin Juntong, who chairs the committee, said.
The three-day event in Buri Ram, which ended on Sunday, was organised by former MP Newin Chidchob, who suggested the government allow people to grow six marijuana plants per family.