When medical cannabis became legal in Thailand in 2018, many people were excited to be able to treat their conditions with a natural alternative legally, for the first time in decades.
The Health Ministry in Thailand just announced that the first medical cannabis prescriptions for patients are set to be rolled out next month. Thai patients will also need to register and become approved before they’re entitled to prescription-based buds. Thailand’s Minister of Health, Dr. Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, 10,000 bottles of medical cannabis oil will be made by Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization.
At the same time, Phra Achan Fan Acharo Hospital intends to produce different formulas of Thai remedies, containing cannabis extract from crops already confiscated by Thai law enforcement. When it comes to prescribing medical cannabis to patients, 400 Thai doctors have been approved so far. That number also includes dentists and pharmacists and another 3,000 traditional Thai medicine practitioners. All of the approved doctors and practitioners have been or are being trained in how to prescribe medical cannabis.
A two-day training course was recently arranged in Thailand, aimed at educating medical professionals about cannabis. The special training event was organized by the Department for the Development of Thai and Alternative Medicine and the Department of Medical Services. Those who passed the exam at the end of the course were then able to apply for a medical cannabis license.
The authorities in Thailand are acutely aware that medical doctors and dentists have little-to-no knowledge when it comes to prescribing cannabis as medicine. That’s why they’ve set up a system of ongoing training and a requirement to renew licenses every two years. Moreover, doctors will need to report to the Special Access Scheme before handing prescriptions to patients. They are tasked with keeping track of things like side effects from cannabis and to record and analyze outcomes from treatments.
Thailand’s new medical cannabis program will be implemented in two stages. Stage one includes prescribing cannabis to patients via medical center hospitals in various provinces of the country. Stage two will see specialized departments inside all Thai hospitals with a provision for medical cannabis.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul explained, according to a Bangkok Post report, “While the drugs are in production now, I have asked that laws be amended to accommodate this move. Within 2-3 weeks, hospitals under the ministry will be allowed to prescribe drugs containing cannabis extract. Assuming good results from treatment, the policy on cannabis then will move on to the next step.”
The primary issue facing Thai authorities at the moment is one of supply and demand, just like in Canada where cannabis was recently legalized. For now, there simply isn’t enough medical cannabis oil to go around, and that means stage one of the rollout may run into problems. For the time being, those recovering from cancer treatments, and patients with MS will be prioritized to receive cannabis oil first.
The issue should be under control before long, especially as around 20,000 cannabis plants have been planted with the anticipated yield coming around the end of December; enough to treat approximately 2,000 patients. Meanwhile, chief of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Marut Jirasrattasiri, explained that his department is ready to provide medical cannabis oil. “We will be able to provide the cannabis oil to all 12 public health regions by August. The formula, based on Mr. Daycha’s original, is produced to a high standard of safety and efficiency,” he said.
It remains to be seen how successful, or not, the rollout of the new medical cannabis program in Thailand will be bearing in mind all of the challenges it faces. It is the hope of many that patients in Thailand will gain full access to medical cannabis if they choose it as an alternative to other medications and treatments.