Unclear licensing rules raise concerns that big foreign firms applying for patents might squeeze out local players and drive up the cost of cannabis-derived medical products.
Last week, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed a bill allowing the use of cannabis and kratom, a local plant with opioid properties native to the region. It grants use for several purposes, including patient treatment, growing for export and sale, and research.
However, there have been discussions amongst activists and academics around the fact that this legalisation may not actually benefit patients with some worrying that the possible high prices of medical cannabis products could help seed a new ‘black market.’
The bill has been criticised for being ‘opaque’ and ‘unclear’ and concerns also lie around unresolved patent legislation and rules that have found to be obstructive to smaller-scale operations and home-use.
A flagged flaw in the framework is the requirement that legal cannabis farming can only be done within enclosed facilities even though Thailand’s climate is ideal for the outside cultivation of the plant.
Cannabis has long been used in South East Asian traditional medicine and the region is known for its wisdom in the plants uses and cultivation.
Panthep Puapongpan, a dean at Rangsit University told the Chang Rai Times that this rule will make it very hard for small local companies to comply and provides an opportunity for multinational companies to monopolise the market.
“I see an ongoing wrangle between international pharmaceutical corporations and their local counterparts over who will get the biggest share of profits from legalization of medical cannabis. On the one side, there is an effort to keep the unlawful cannabinoid drug patent applications to ensure the profits of international firms, while on the other many unnecessary rules have been created to keep small businesses and traditional medicine away,” Panthep said.
The bill is still pending royal approval and is expected to take effect next year.