Malaysia’s Minister of Health has just visited Thailand to observe the progress of cannabis legalization in the country – which so far has been very different from models seen in western countries
In one of the most interesting developments of the summer, The Malaysian Minister of Health, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar has taken an official tour of Thailand’s burgeoning cannabis industry. The intent of the trip was to understand how the implementation of the country’s new cannabis industry was proceeding.
Among other things, he visited the government-run cannabis plantation in the Pathum Thani Province. He also sat with officials from the Thai Food and Drug Administration to understand how Thailand is proceeding on its registration process and how patients can now access medical cannabis in Thailand.
Thailand is Setting an Asian Precedent That Other Countries Will Follow
Thailand has taken the lead in Asia in terms of implementing cannabis reform, which, despite fits and starts (like a wave of tourists now visiting the country to partake), is likely to become a model for many countries in Asia looking for ways to begin the process of reform.
Beyond this, however, the Thai experiment is also creating a model of legalization that is directly antithetical to the models seen in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Namely, GMP regulations appear to have been waived by the government, allowing local farmers to deliver medical products directly to local hospitals.
While Western compliance experts would disagree with the process, this has in fact created a so far more reliable domestic supply chain, and beyond that, a local industry that is not subject to the overproduction of cannabis seen in places like Canada and the US.
That said, the model is very different. In Thailand, cannabis is being grown under the auspices of government oversight – namely the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (or GPO). The agency has successfully developed active cannabis ingredients that are suitable for use in sublingual drops – along with four formulations. Beyond this, the government has distributed such products to 12 public health districts across the country in a program that will be expanded to include all state and public hospitals.
To meet that demand, the GPO is expanding its formal cultivation from 100 square foot indoor facility to a 1,000-square-meter facility in the Nong Yai district of Chonburi. This is expected to yield 5,000 cannabis trees per year and 1,000 kilograms of bud and flower annually.
The government has also partnered with another 12 local businesses and entrepreneurs to source additional cannabis that meets the government’s standards.
Unlike Germany (and presumably other European countries) the focus, for now, is domestic cultivation and the development of a non-public industry focused on need rather than industry projections.
A Model of Sustainable (Local) Cannabis Cultivation
The program being developed here, so far, appears to be in keeping with the government’s promise in 2018 that it would legalize cannabis as a “gift to the Thai people.”
That is not what has happened elsewhere. Indeed, most of the developed world has done one of two things – create a quickly commoditized and rapidly public company infrastructure – and or rely on imports. See the entire cannabis cultivation discussion in Europe (with the notable exception of the Dutch, who remain the continent’s vast exception.)
African cannabis, so far, has also been promoted largely for the money it will bring in from foreign buyers.
And elsewhere (starting with Greece) the medical industry has been allowed to operate simply to bring in foreign capital.
What is happening in Thailand, in other words, is the development of a startling new (and much more egalitarian) industry that is already drawing interest from Asian countries.
It may, as frustration and anger continues to grow with the dysfunctional industry models and economics seen elsewhere, become a model seen elsewhere – even in countries with an existing cannabis industry.