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Thais to have access to permanent official cannabis clinics

Bangkok: Thailand has opened its first full-time clinic specialising in traditional and alternative cannabis-based medicine, as part of a move by the government towards developing a medicinal cannabis industry.

"This is a pilot clinic, because we cannot produce enough doctors with expertise in cannabis," Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, told reporters at the opening ceremony in Bangkok on Monday. Patients will receive treatment free of charge for the first two weeks, he added.

Patients wait to register for a consultation at the first full-time clinic prescribing cannabis oil for medical treatment in the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province, Thailand. Credit:AP

Thailand, which has a tradition of using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue, legalised marijuana for medical use and research in 2017 to boost agricultural income.

There are already around 25 cannabis clinics attached to general hospitals around the country but, unlike the newly-launched pilot clinic, they operate for just a few days a week due to a lack of specialised staff.

The largest producer of medicinal cannabis is currently the Health Ministry's Government Pharmaceutical Organisation. Kasetsart University's director of medical cannabis research, Natakorn Thasnas, said the university would supply 2200 kilograms of cannabis leaf to the Ministry.

Patients waiting for a doctor consultation in the Thai Health Ministry's cannabis clinic. Credit:AP

Cannabis production, cultivation and sale has been limited to licensed Thai producers for the next four years to protect the domestic industry. Currently, only hospitals and research facilities are allowed to apply for cannabis production and extraction licences, but the government is reviewing regulations to enable Thai businesses to apply for permits.

Last year, Thailand dropped cannabis and hemp extracts from its narcotics list and proposed a draft law that would allow each household to grow six cannabis plants.

Four types of drugs, containing different combinations of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psycho-active ingredient in cannabis, were given to patients to treat migraine, insomnia, neck pain and muscle stiffness, the ministry said in a statement.

The pilot clinic, based in the Ministry of Public Health, expects to see between 200 to 300 patients daily.

"I was worried at first, but I studied the effects and decided it was better because its natural," said Waraporn Boonsri, 69, who received four vials of cannabis oil to help her sleep.

Nearly 2200 patients have registered at the clinic until March, a health official said. Anutin said there were plans for 77 clinics to be opened across the country, with one in every province. Originally published here: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/thais-to-have-access-to-permanent-official-cannabis-clinics-20200107-p53pic.html

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