Thailand’s parliament has almost unanimously accepted the first reading of a bill to legalise medical cannabis, but there is growing fear that foreign companies will monopolise any new marijuana industry.
On 23 November, 145 members of the National Legislative Assembly supported the bill's first reading, with one member abstaining, and none opposing. The bill intends to amend the country’s Narcotics Act, legalising cannabis as a treatment for patients. It would also legalise the medical use of kratom, a plant indigenous to Thailand which is used by some people – but not officially recognised – as a treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms.
According to the Bangkok Post, many licensed groups and individuals who would be entitled to possess cannabis include government ministries, local administrative bodies, the Red Cross, the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation, and certain medical professionals. However, people who have been convicted of drug offences under current Thai law will not be permitted to have cannabis in their possession.
Several international companies have applied for Thai patents for their medical cannabis products, raising concern that - if the bill is eventually passed into law - foreign pharmaceutical companies will dominate the Thai cannabis market.