New Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has ordered ministerial regulations to be revised to help 3,000 folk practitioners, including activist Decha Siripat, prescribe cannabis without violating narcotic laws.
Without the amendment, these practitioners will not be allowed to use cannabis because the 2018 Narcotic Act permits only professionals -- such as doctors, pharmacists, dentists and licensed Thai traditional medical practitioners recognised by the Thai Traditional Medical Professions Act -- to prescribe cannabis to their patients.
Mr Decha and 3,000 other practitioners received a five-year-certificate from the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM) to tend to their patients, but they are not treated as professionals under the law.
If they want to acquire that status, they need to undergo a lengthy process -- which takes a year -- to get approval from the Ministry of Public Health.
"The amendment is an attempt to help users of cannabis taking the drug for medical reasons. We want to make sure patients and medical practitioners of cannabis medical treatment will be free from legal problems," Mr Anutin said yesterday. He was speaking after a meeting of advocacy groups.
He said the amendment will add a clause that automatically includes these 3,000 practitioners under the Thai Traditional Medical Professions Act.
The move comes after the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Friday announced it could not approve the "Decha Oil" formula cannabis-extract oil because Mr Decha was not a professional under Thai Traditional Medical Professions Act.
Mr Decha is president of the Khaokwan Foundation, a sustainable agriculture advocacy group. Three years ago he started giving away his own version of cannabis oil to patients for free.
The changes to the law will start next week and will be completed for Mr Anutin to sign in August, according to Rossana Tosittrakul, a former senator and representative of the Network of advocacy group on cannabis medical treatment who was also at the meeting.
"The regulation amendment will clear technical barriers which delay access of patients to cannabis treatment. We do not want to see thousands of patients wait in vain or die from waiting because the law has a technical problem," she said.
She added that the meeting also discussed the transfer of patients waiting for Decha Oil to receive medical treatment from other facilities approved by the ministry.