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Thailand Establishes International Medical Cannabis Research Center



Thailand is moving forward with broader plan to become a world-class cannabis production and development hub, and in the country’s most recent move, the Thailan Public Health Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding with RxLeaf World Medica to establish the International Medical Cannabis Research Center, according to a press release.

The aim of the new research center is to create a knowledge hub for genetic research on medical cannabis; bringing together doctors, researchers, and experts from Canada, the Netherlands and other countries to conduct research on cannabis products and development and exchanging knowledge on medical cannabis.

Thailand recently passed the Narcotics Act (No. 7) B.E. 2562, which amended the country’s Narcotics Act at the time to allow cannabis, hemp and a number of other substances to be planted, processed, imported, exported, distributed or possessed for treatment of patients and for research purposes. In February of this year, the country allowed specific parts and extract of cannabis to be used in foods and beverages, though the amount of THC in the CBD product is not allowed to exceed 0.2 percent of its total weight, which essentially eliminates chances of consumers getting a psychoactive high.

Only licensed medical professionals, state-registered agricultural community programs and government agencies are allowed to legally cultivate cannabis, and to legally consume cannabis in the country, individuals need a prescription obtainable from an FDA-licensed physician. Locally produced CBA extracts are exempt.

Mr. Anutin Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister of Thailand and minister of public health, said that the ministry has historically promoted medical cannabis and its safe use for medical treatment, recognizing that cannabis can be used to treat various diseases like cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis with muscle pain and neuralgia.

The minister also addressed that part of this move forward is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the Thai economy, saying that opening up more avenues for medical cannabis, and potential economic reform and new opportunities, is necessary.

The center is also designed to support the country’s economic recovery and points to the Thai government’s larger plans to promote the country as a comprehensive medical hub in Asia and encourage the development of the cannabis value chain (product cultivation, standardization, market expansion and support for product investment).

The release notes that the new center is considered a key prospect in the road ahead for the Thai economy, given that the medical cannabis industry has a global valuation at $8.3 trillion, while the legalized cannabis market is at approximately $12.6 billion (according to WHO and Prohibition Partners).

The aim in the future is to create a medical and wellness tourism hub that will attract people who prefer “integrative” medicine and plant-based products for cancer and seizure patients, along with cosmetic and dietary supplements. They also hope this will add value to the food and drink market, opening up opportunities to farmers and entrepreneurs to grow and develop sustainable products.

It appears the aim to link cannabis and food is already making headlines in the country, with one of Thailand’s major fast food chains promoting its “Crazy Happy Pizza,” which is topped with a cannabis leaf, NPR reported. Cannabis is also infused into the cheese crust, and there’s chopped cannabis in the dipping sauce, though it’s legal and reportedly will not get consumers high.

“Of course, they cannot get high,” Panusak Suensatboon, general manager of The Pizza Company, said in an interview this week. “It’s just a marketing campaign. and you can taste the cannabis and then if you have enough, you maybe get a bit sleepy.”

In the establishment of the Internal Medical Cannabis Research Center, the policy also led to a partnership between public and private sectors.