Thailand opens first full-time clinic, but cannabis-trained doctors lacking

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Thailand has opened its first full-time clinic specializing in traditional and cannabis-based medicine as the government moves to develop a medical cannabis industry.

The clinic is dispensing four varieties in different combinations of CBD and THC to provide relief to those suffering from migraine headaches, insomnia, neck pain and muscle stiffness, the ministry said in a statement.

“This is a pilot clinic, because we cannot produce enough doctors with expertise in cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, told reporters earlier this month at a ceremony that opened the Bangkok clinic. Patients received treatment free of charge for the first two weeks, he said.

200-300 patients per day

Thailand already has about 25 cannabis clinics, affiliated with hospitals, that operate only part-time due to the lack of cannabis-trained staff, the government said. The full-time pilot clinic, based in the Ministry of Public Health, expects to see between 200 to 300 patients daily, and nearly 2,200 patients have already registered for treatment, officials said. Plans call for 77 clinics to eventually be opened across the country, with one in every province.

Thailand, where cannabis has traditionally been used to relieve pain and fatigue, legalized marijuana for medical use and research in 2017, and is among leading global nations that have set the level of THC allowable in hemp to a full 1.0% by dry weight.

Thai officials have said their intentions are to allow hemp extracts to be used in medicine, cosmetics and food, and to generally support hemp as a cash crop. The largest producer of medicinal cannabis is currently the health ministry’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization. 

Restrictive policies

Cannabis sales, imports, exports and possession of hemp and marijuana extracts are restrictive in Thailand. First, only hospitals and research facilities are allowed to apply for cannabis production and extraction licences. And rules also do not allow for CBD to be imported until 2024, giving Thai interests a period to establish commercial operations while blocking existing international producers from Thailand’s consumer market of 70 million people. The government said it is reviewing regulations to enable Thai businesses to apply for permits.

Thailand just last year dropped cannabis and hemp extracts from the country’s official narcotics list. But recreational use and the sale of marijuana are still illegal, and carry severe penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

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