Thailand Suspends Licensing Amid Foreign Pharmaceutical Takeover Concerns

Thailand officials suspended the licensing of medical cannabis products over fears that foreign pharmaceutical companies will try to monopolize the market.

Currently, companies from countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan have already applied for patents. A decree made by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha ordered the Department of Intellectual Property to disqualify current patent applications for medical cannabis products prompted by concerns that foreign companies could take over the Thai market.

Cannabis is not yet legal in Thailand even though the country’s junta-appointed parliament approved it. On Christmas day last year, it voted to amend the Narcotic Act of 1979 to amend legislation and allow for cannabis, one of the traditional medicines of the area, to be legal for medical use. The medical cannabis legalization has to be signed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, for it to become law. The Thailand legislature agreed to amend the law to accommodate cannabis and kratom for medical use.

Commercial cannabis products or their derivatives are not currently supported under Thai intellectual property laws. Neither is natural microorganisms allowed to be patented under Thai law. When the new legislation is passed, applicants will be aware of the criterion specified under that law and subsequently more Thais can legally cultivate cannabis and benefit from the new market. Current patents can be appealed to the Department of Intellectual Property.

“I don’t think it’s concerning yet, because we’re still in a very early stage,” said David Kideckel, the managing director of the life sciences division of Toronto, Canada-based Altacorp. “It would become concerning if other more sizable countries were to follow Thailand’s lead. At the end of the day, Thailand is such a small market that this is likely to have little to any effect on foreign companies’ operations and bottom line.”

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