Thailand Proudly Produces Its First Medical Marijuana
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Unwilling to allow the public to get zonked or
profit from recreational marijuana, Thailand has instead produced its
first pharmaceutical THC and CBD oils, tablets, oral sprays, chocolate
wafers and traditional potions after recently legalizing medical
This first line of weed-based
products puts Thailand on the cutting
edge of Southeast Asia's legal marijuana industry, a lucrative
advantage if allowed to flourish.
If recreational marijuana is
legalized and freely grown, it would
create an extremely profitable domestic and international market
possibly bigger than this mostly agricultural country's rice, sugar
cane, or tapioca crops.
South Korea is ahead of
Thailand in producing legal medical cannabis
products for domestic use.
India offers relatively small, decades-old
legal "bhang" sales for
recreational use solely within that country and made from otherwise
Proud of the tiny amount they created, the
government organized a
visit for journalists on August 2 to Rangsit University's new,
sparsely equipped Medical Cannabis Research Institute in the College
University staff unlocked a gray metal safe and
displayed 40 kilograms
(88 pounds) of dried marijuana confiscated by police during drug
busts. Each rectangular kilogram of "cannabis raw material" was
hard-pressed and wrapped in clear plastic.
A few months ago, officials said
confiscated marijuana was useless for
medical purposes because it was often contaminated with insecticide,
fertilizer, heavy metals or fungus.
Researchers realized however they had to use
illegal weed because
Thailand was unable to quickly grow enough marijuana under strict
"If some samples are contaminated, we will not use it," a researcher said.
They also displayed a "subcritical solvent
extractor" and a "butane
extraction" machine, both invented by Thais, to pull
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) from marijuana.
If laws are relaxed,
impoverished villagers could collectively buy
refrigerator-sized extractors and profit from demand, they said.
The extractors produced the university's first
sesame-based cannabis oils.
15-millileter bottle included 500 milligrams of THC and
milligrams of CBD, enough for 600 drops. Two drops a day are to be
placed under the tongue.
"This product is
not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent
medical condition or any disease," and has "not been evaluated by the
[Thai] Food and Drug Administration," the label said.
University researchers injected THC and
CBD into pink, swollen tumors
induced in live mice to determine if cannabis inhibits cancer growth.
healthy mice, under the influence, explored chambers
determine if cannabis reduces anxiety and offers other benefits.
In one test, they put a mouse into a chamber
which had 16 holes in the
floor. Inquisitive drugged mice explored more holes in three minutes
compared with shy sober mice, indicating "anti-anxiety activity."
university's small, sunny rooftop garden displayed 72
marijuana plants in various stages of growth.
glass house encased 36 plants fed by "root spa" watering,
other 36 stood outdoors and absorbed "drip" watering.
"We grow without any chemicals. No pesticides.
fertilizer," a grower said.
sprouted from seeds of unknown origin, recovered
"We don't know if they got the
seeds from Thailand or from a
neighboring country," researcher Orapan Hussarang said.
"We don't know exactly,"
what plant strains are growing. "It's just
unknown," she said.
"After we get the bud, we are going to give it to
the pharmacy. They
will check how much THC and CBD."
Some Thai labs imported documented seeds from the
elsewhere, Ms. Orapan said.
University also presented its cannabis oils which
herbal ingredients used in Thai cuisine and tonics.
"These [oils] are used when your body is feeling
too warm, or if you
have extreme weight loss from disease, or to promote sleep,"
researcher Somporn Phonkrathok said.
Stomach bloating, stress disorders, pain
and other problems can also
be treated with these elixirs. Some can be massaged into the skin.
are using Thailand's centuries-old recipes gathered
rural traditional healers who have been discreetly treating villagers
with illegal marijuana-laced concoctions.
The Government Pharmaceutical Organization
(GPO) and a handful of
other facilities are also growing and producing small amounts of
marijuana for medical use, but nowhere near what is needed.
The GPO delivered 4,500
tiny bottles of its oils to the Health
Ministry on August 7 for final-stage cancer victims and recently
planted an additional 20,000 plants.
Researchers have not been able
to make enough doses because the
government demands most marijuana research and production be conducted
in Thailand which lacks qualified staff and large-scale cannabis
Officials do not want to import
large quantities of foreign medical
cannabis because it could flood Thailand's market and snatch profits
from government organizations and licensed facilities.
result, tens of thousands of Thai patients are stuck waiting
hospitals and traditional medical practitioners to prescribe and
distribute made-in-Thailand cannabis medicine.
Marijuana cannot be grown, produced or sold in
Thailand except for
medical use with permission from the government which can also import
and export medical cannabis products.
"How can we produce enough
cannabis-based medicines when there are
only a few places authorized to grow the plant?" said Daycha Siripatra
who distributes free marijuana oil to cancer patients.
Daycha's manufacturing and distribution was
illegal but his 40,000
patients and other supporters defended recent moves to shut it down.
As a result, he was
accredited by the Health Department in April and
the government is issuing him a license to continue.
"Daycha Oil" however must be produced in cooperation with
Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine which
reportedly will allow him to distribute 25 percent of his oil each
Patients qualify only if
they suffer severe illnesses listed by the
Health Ministry and agree to undergo studies by Chulalongkorn
University's Pharmaceutical Science faculty to determine efficacy and
force users and medical practitioners to rely on
suppliers, who can manipulate the price," Mr. Daycha warned in May.
To boosts supplies, the GPO plans to
import some CBD oil from abroad
until Thailand produces enough.
"Most Thai marijuana strains contain more THC than
CBD, which makes it
more suitable for recreational use," GPO Director Withoon Danwiboon
parliamentary elections, the modest-sized Bhumjai
(Proud to be Thai) party's leader Anutin Charnvirakul became health
minister and deputy prime minister.
Mr. Anutin campaigned to legalize recreational
government sales, but not enough other officials agree.
"We would like to provide medical tour
packages, such as detox, Thai
massage and other wellness courses that use marijuana," said Tourism
Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan, who belongs to Mr. Anutin's party.
the August 7 delivery of the GPO's medical cannabis oil to
Health Ministry, Mr. Anutin said: "This is the outcome of legalizing
"There is no hidden agenda. We only want to support every patient."
Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based
journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco
His online sites are: