Thailand’s economy wasn’t doing great even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Similar to plenty of countries, the pandemic has resulted in a severe economic crisis, especially since Thailand’s economy heavily relies on agriculture, tourism, and exports. The Finance Ministry forecasts a likely contraction of 8.5% this year, the biggest decline projected in Asia. In a bid to create revenue and new employment opportunities, the Cabinet is looking into passing rules that would ease the private cultivation and sale of medical cannabis.
On August 10, 2020, the Cabinet amended the Narcotics Act, pending Parliament’s approval, to allow private medical operators to grow, import, and export medical cannabis. ‘Private medical operators’ include some traditional medical practitioners and farmers. The amendment expanded a cornerstone policy of Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who said that the controlled legalization of marijuana would boost the economy.
“Thailand is already a tourist destination for many foreigners, and marijuana will be another attraction for the country and for medical tourists,” says Marut Jirasrattasiri, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine. He says that private medical practitioners with licenses will have the right to “grow, produce and export marijuana” and that Thai farmers will gain “more options for income.” Thai investors will be prioritized.
“We want to use Thai money, for now, especially collaborations between the government and communities to enhance knowledge, research, and production. We don’t want foreigners to come in and invest, then reap all the benefits,” Marut says. According to the Thai Rice Exporters Association, about one-third of all Thais earn their living from rice alone, while the wellness tourism sector generated domestic expenditures of $12 billion in 2017, more than the combined amounts in Indonesia and Malaysia.
At the moment, marijuana cultivating and dispensing is done solely by government agencies or closely regulated organizations. Not only will the amendment grant Thais access to another income-earning stream, it will also provide medical marijuana to those who need it when they need it. “This will allow more patients to have access to medical marijuana for their ailments and to increase awareness of medical marijuana in Thailand,” government spokesman Traisuree Taisaranakul said in a statement.
According to Director General Marut, both Thais and foreigners will have the opportunity to be treated with medical marijuana in the next stages, “but only after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed and restrictions are lifted.”
Experts say the direction being taken by the Thai government could be what cannabis companies like Pure Extracts Corp. wish the U.S. federal government to take so that patients, the economy and society in general can benefit from this industry.
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