New law still requires the king's approval
Thailand is set to become the first Southeast Asian nation to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Thailand’s military government has backed the move, which must be approved by the nation’s monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, reported the New York Times.
By a vote of 166 to zero, the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly approved legislation this week that would allow the use of cannabis under medical supervision. Thirteen members abstained. The measure is expected to take effect next year.
“This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people,” the lawmaker who headed the drafting committee, Somchai Sawangkarn, said during a televised session on Tuesday.
Thailand’s penalty for recreational use — up to five years in prison for possession of 10 kilograms or less — will remain in place.
Marijuana can be useful in treating a wide range of conditions, including glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain and the side effects of chemotherapy. In the United States, California became the first state to legalise medical use in 1996. Now, it is one of 33 states that allow medical cannabis.
But in Southeast Asia, there has been little tolerance for medical marijuana until now. In Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, marijuana traffickers who are caught face capital punishment.
Details of how medical marijuana will be administered in Thailand remained unclear. Only people authorized by the government will be allowed to plant or possess marijuana. Medical users will be required to have a prescription or medical marijuana identification card.
Thailand is headed by the king, but the government is run on a day-to-day basis by the military regime, which seized power in 2014 after months of strife between rival factions.