Anutin says no rush over weed plans
Pilot project set for next two years
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also leader of the Bhumjaithai Party has said he will implement his party's flagship ganja seri,or cannabis liberalisation policy, by launching a pilot scheme using public health volunteers within next two years.
"The policy will materialise in a gradual manner, and with the help of medical institutes. I'll not use the political apparatus to push this policy because it will only make us a target for accusations about vested interests. The plan will slowly take shape over one or two years," he said at a workshop on marijuana for medical treatment.
"Ganja seri is already included in government policy. Next week, the cabinet will announce this policy to parliament," he said.
He stressed that cannabis must be used for medical purposes only.
"Authorities still need to control and regulate villagers who are permitted to grow cannabis to make sure that it is free from contamination and of a quality fit for medical use. Villagers will not be allowed to trade cannabis for business purposes. All produce must be sold to the government," he said.
Referring to concerns over the negative impact of household planting, Mr Anutin insisted that all steps will be taken under existing laws.
"The existing laws are enough. We don't need new ones," he said.
He stressed the importance of providing training to people who are allowed to grow cannabis. For the pilot project, villagers will be monitored and trained in harvesting the plant for medical use.
Mr Anutin's cautious stance came after the Bhumjaithai Party's election campaign promise to liberalise marijuana cultivation faced doubts over its practicality.
Among its critics are Viroj Sumyai, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, who has warned against full-scale liberalisation.
Thailand is among 196 countries to have endorsed the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. To carry out its liberalisation plan, the country will have to withdraw from the pact and, as a result, lose certain benefits involving the trade and import of medicines, he warned.
In a related development, a network of 12 health advocacy groups, including the Khaokwan Foundation, Foundation for Consumers, Rangsit University and a network of patients, submitted a petition to Mr Anutin, asking him to speed up a process to approve "Decha Oil," a cannabis-extracted oil.
"Decha Oil" is developed by Decha Siripat, president of the Khaokwan Foundation, a sustainable agriculture advocacy group. Three years ago Mr Decha started giving away his own specifically formulated version of cannabis oil to patients for free.
The petition questioned why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken such a long time, over a month, to consider Mr Decha's formula.
A panel under the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine made no objections to Mr Decha's medicines but "it seems the FDA is slowing the process", the network claimed.
"Patients have not received drugs for nearly four months.... The delay has led to the death of more than 50 cancer patients during the period," it alleged.
The petition also criticised the FDA for double standards as it took only a week to grant approval to Chaophraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital to harvest, produce and treat patients.
Chaophraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital, famous for its herbal medicines, is one of three hospitals that the authority has given marijuana confiscated in drug raids to use to treat people.
Yesterday, the hospital received 632 kilogrammes of seized marijuana from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the board's secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk said.
In another related story, the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation yesterday signed an agreement with Khon Kaen University to jointly conduct research into new products made from marijuana extracts, according to GPO chief Withun Danwibun.