On Tuesday, the interim Thai parliament voted to allow the use of medical cannabis — as well as kratom, a locally grown plant traditionally used as a stimulant and painkiller — in the country. Despite the passing of this bill, one of the senators who worked on it confirms that the use of marijuana for recreational purposes still remains illegal.
As reported by CNN, the amendment to the current Narcotics Bill was passed after both the second and third readings on Christmas Day. It will become effective as soon as it has been published on the Royal Gazette. Once published, the production, import, export, possession, and use of marijuana and kratom for medical purposes become fully legal.
Purveyors, producers, and researchers dealing with the drugs will have to obtain licenses in order to do so legally, and users will have to obtain a medical prescription from a licensed doctor in order to be allowed to make use of them.
Lawmaker Somchai Sawangkarn had hailed the passing of this particular amendment, and said that to allow the use of medical marijuana in the country “could be considered as a New Year gift to Thais.” Public polls taken before the official vote showed a majority of Thai citizens were in favor of the motion.
Tuesday saw the National Legislative Assembly’s 166 members vote in favor of the change. None voted against the amendment, but there were 13 members of parliament who decided to abstain from voting.
The decision means that Thailand becomes the first country in Southeast Asia to allow the use of the drug in any form, in a region that is notoriously strict on drug use, and carries extremely harsh penalties for those found to be in violation of the law.
Other countries in the region are considering passing similar motions, including neighboring Malaysia. Earlier in December, New Zealand enacted a law liberalizing the use of medical cannabis, which was previously tightly restricted, according to Global News.
This year has seen the British government also approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and just last month it became available on the NHS for those with medical prescriptions. In 2017, medications derived from cannabis became legal in Germany, while medical marijuna itself is also legal in Australia, Ireland, and South Africa.
It is currently only legal for medicinal use in 30 states in the U.S., and the laws pertaining to its uses for medical purposes still vary greatly from state to state.