The Public Health Ministry has removed the seeds and oils extracted from some marijuana plants from the list of controlled substances under Category 5 of the Narcotics Act.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he believes the country's economy will benefit from the new ministerial regulation, which would effectively allow the use of hemp oil and seeds as ingredients in locally-made drugs, food and cosmetics products.
Hemp is defined by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) as a Cannabis sativa L plant which contains no more than 0.5% of THC by weight in its flowers and stems, and no more than 0.3% of THC by weight in its seeds.
According to the regulation, only hemp extracts that contain a ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) not exceeding 0.01% to 0.2% by weight can be used in drugs and herbal products. The regulation also sanctions the use of dried hemp bark, stems, fibres, and seeds in traditional medicine, food and cosmetics preparations.
CBD is one of the active ingredients in hemp plants that are believed to have medicinal properties, while THC is the ingredient responsible for the plant's psychoactive effects.
The regulation said such products must be classified as drugs or herbal products under related laws and must be used only for these purposes.
In the first five years beginning on Aug 27, 2019, only local licenced producers will be allowed to use parts of the plant in their products.
Recently, the ministry granted permission to the Highland Research and Development Institute to grow local hemp strains in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nan, Tak and Phetchabun provinces. Hemp strains found in these provinces are known for their high-quality fibres, which make them suitable for use in the textile industry.
Meanwhile, Tares Krassanairawiwong, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the FDA is amending its regulations to allow companies to grow hemp as a cash crop, before adding that the agency is also working towards issuing new rules on foods and cosmetics that contain CBD.
ONCB secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk warned people are still not allowed to grow or possess marijuana and hemp plants, despite the fact that the plant was conditionally removed from the controlled substances list.
"Marijuana and hemp are still Class 5 narcotics, and their cultivation, import, export, sale, possession and/or consumption without permits are illegal," he said.