The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine hopes to distribute two traditional medicines and three ready-to-mix recipes that contain cannabis to hospitals and traditional medicine practitioners next month, assuming it can obtain enough of the extract.
Dr Marut Jirasrattasiri, the department's chief, explained that the two medicines, known as "Sanan Traipop Oil", can help in the treatment of liver cancer and ascites, while one of the recipes is a haemorrhoid treatment.
The other three ready-to-mix recipes will contain cannabis as well as other herbs, such as dried flower, chopped pepper and moonseed in different proportions. Medical practitioners will then mix the ingredients themselves before prescribing the medicines for a variety of ailments.
"By approving cannabis medications slowly and only after due consideration, we are confident that the plant can become another effective medical tool while minimising the chances of misuse. We hope to send these new medications to the hospitals and provincial public health offices by the end of next month," Dr Marut said.
"However, this assumes that we are able to source enough cannabis extract in order to meet our production timeline," the department chief added, pointing out that since the law was amended, demand for cannabis extracts has risen considerably while supply remains limited.
So far, the 16 out of 90 proposed recipes that list cannabis among their ingredients have been officially approved for use by doctors who have been granted a licence by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last week the department put forward another 10 recipes for final approval by the national narcotics board.
Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said the World Health Organisation still classifies cannabis itself as a narcotic, but the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD) are regarded as medical substances.
"We have not gone beyond the WHO's recommendation. We have begun the process of regulating cannabis for medical use only. If the country were to completely liberalise the use of the drug, the number of people addicted to it for recreational purposes would increase," he said.
The department on Monday held the first training sessions for practitioners of traditional medicine in 13 regions, in which 2,948 people registered to participate. All those wishing to prescribe cannabis-based medicines must attend training and pass a test in order to receive a licence from the FDA.
Under the current law, any doctor or organisation that wishes to prescribe or manufacture cannabis-related drugs must obtain a licence from the FDA. All other uses are considered illegal and subject to prosecution.
Local groups have been campaigning for restrictions to be loosened even further and the Bhumjaithai Party made the complete liberalisation of cannabis use one of its key campaign promises.
In related movement, Dr Piyasakol said he has ordered the permanent secretary for public health to launch an investigation into the unauthorised prescription of marijuana oil to patients at the state-run Nong Chang Hospital in Uthai Thani's Nong Chang district.
At this juncture, only those medical professionals trained in the prescription of medical cannabis are permitted to prescribe certain types of marijuana extracts supplied by the Public Health Ministry to patients, he said.