Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said hospitals under his ministry will be allowed to prescribe drugs containing cannabis extract within three weeks.
"While the drugs are in production now, I have asked that laws be amended to accommodate this move. Within 2-3 weeks, hospitals under the ministry will be allowed to prescribe drugs containing cannabis extract. Assuming good results from treatment, the policy on cannabis then will move on to the next step," he said.
He said he was not worried about foreigners coming to dominate the market for cannabis drugs in Thailand as the government is discussing with foreigners only the know-how involved in growing and processing cannabis. The concern now is whether production will be enough to meet demand, he said.
The Department of Medical Service said on Wednesday the first batch of cannabis-derived drugs manufactured by the Governmental Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) to be distributed to hospitals early next month has fallen short of the amount expected.
The GPO hopes to provide around 4,000 bottles of cannabis-derived drugs containing five miligrammes each to the department in the first batch. The GPO will distribute the narcotic-based drug to hospitals nationwide under a regulation in which doctors and pharmacists must have a licence to prescribe the drug to patients.
Somsak Akkslip, the department's chief, said the department plans to launch a "consultant clinic" to patients seeking cannabis treatment nationwide by the end of next month. The clinic will decide which patients should receive the treatment.
Due to limited production capacity, not all patients can access the cannabis-based treatment for the time being. Patients suffering from side-effects from cancer treatment and multiple sclerosis will be the first priority, according to the department.
"The problem is we have less of the CBD-based cannabis drug, which is effective for those patients. But the first mainly contains THC-based drug, which is mostly available for study and research," he said.
However, he added the department has started to plant around 20,000 cannabis trees, which are expected to yield CBD-based 250,000 miligrammes by the end of December, to serve 2,000 patients.
In a bid to pave a way for the cannabis medical treatment services, Marut Jirasrattasiri, chief of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, said the department is ready to provide cannabis oil, originally produced by green activist Daycha Siripatra who described himself as a folk medicine practitioner.
"We will be able to provide the cannabis oil to all 12 public health regions by August. The formula, based on Mr Daycha's original, is produced to a high standard of safety and efficiency," he told a seminar at the National Health Routine to Research Forum held in Khon Kaen.