Thailand has started process to legalise medical marijuana, M’sia in talks to join in
A potentially lucrative multi-billion dollar market.
The race has begun.
Thailand and Malaysia are two countries in Asia that can be the first to legalise medical marijuana.
Thailand attempting to change law
The process to propose changes to Thailand’s Drug Act is now officially underway.
In the final week of September 2018, the Thai National Legislative Assembly (NLA) said it is aiming to change the existing 1967 Drug Act by removing marijuana from the Category 5 Narcotics list — considered the “tamest” of the illegal substances.
The NLA has the power to draft the new regulation.
Category five narcotics includes mushrooms and the kratom plant.
Urgent matter in Thailand now
According to Khaosod, a Thai news outfit, there is an urgency in passing amendments to the drug law.
Several lawmakers are proposing the Thai junta government enact it into law immediately.
Proponents of the new law fear they cannot get it through before the next government comes to power, after a new election has been called and would take place in February next year.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been called upon to override any current laws and regulations, in order to fast-track the legalisation of medicinal cannabis — something he can pull off by invoking Article 44, a constitutional clause that permits the general-prime minister to enact any law he deems fit.
Debate and deliberation for medical marijuana to be available in Thailand was expected to wrap up in April 2018, but has taken longer than expected.
If passed, the new law would decriminalise a range of uses, such as cannabis for medication and research, and kratom plants for personal use and growth.
The laws would also shift the focus to rehabilitation rather than incarceration of drug users.
Instead of trying to get a slew of amendments enacted, other lawmakers have proposed a scaled-down measure of only one provision: Legalising marijuana use for medical and research purposes.
Malaysia also wants a piece of the medical cannabis market
According to a Sept. 26 Bloomberg report, Malaysia is also mulling the prospect of grabbing a piece of the medical marijuana pie.
In a mid-September meeting, the Malaysian Cabinet was said to have “very briefly” discussed the medicinal value of marijuana.
Early and informal talks on amending the relevant laws have apparently started, according to Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar.
However, the health ministry is still sceptical about the medicinal value of cannabis due to lack of proof — as well as winning over public consensus.
Malaysia, which imposes the death penalty for some drug trafficking offences, saw a discussion on allowing the drug for medical use after public objections to the death penalty handed to a 29-year-old man sentenced for possessing, processing and distributing medicinal cannabis oil.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, even chimed in.
He said the verdict and relevant law should be reviewed in the country.
Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier was quoted as saying: “It’s already been done in certain countries, and in certain states in America.”
“If it’s going to be used for medicinal purposes, it can be used. Not for social purposes, for medicinal purposes — yes, it should be allowed to be used.”
His view is that the usage of the drug can be managed if it is listed as a controlled item.
However, one of Malaysia’s considerations is on maintaining tough laws against illicit drug use.
Medical marijuana tourism could be the next phase of growth for modernising countries.
The global US$12.9 billion marijuana market is expected to get larger.
It is projected to grow to US$23 billion by 2022, with an annual growth rate of 22 percent in the next five years.
The United States is in the lead, but Canada and California are projected to capture up to 41 percent of the total global market in the next four years.