After the previous amendment to the Thai Narcotics Act came into force in February 2019, allowing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, the regulatory authority noted that there was room for improvement regarding the licensing process and the limited access for patients to medical cannabis.
In order to facilitate patient access to medical cannabis, the Thai Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing on a draft amendment to the Narcotics Act. The public hearing ended in June 2020.
The key elements of the draft amendment are:
- Licensed patients who have been approved by a medical practitioner or a Thai traditional medicine practitioner under the relevant laws, will be able to manufacture cannabis for medical purposes in compliance with the rules, procedures, and conditions set by the Minister of Public Health with the approval of the Narcotics Control Board.
- Agricultural business operators will be able to participate in the manufacturing and development of herbal or traditional drugs in collaboration with manufacturers of licensed modern drugs, traditional drugs, herbal drugs, or herbal products in accordance with the requirements to be issued.
- Patients licensed to manufacture cannabis will be exempt from the duties of the manufacturer under the Narcotics Act including, for example, the duty to provide a label and a package insert or warnings or precautions on the package and the duty to conduct the required analysis/test of the manufactured cannabis products.
- Cannabis seeds can be imported to be cultivated for medical purposes during the first five years from the effective date of the previous amendment to the Narcotics Act.
- Private sector operators who meet the qualifications imposed by the Narcotics Act will be able to apply for a license to import cannabis for research and development purposes during the first five years from the effective date of the previous amendment.
- The time required for storing confiscated narcotics will be reduced. Specifically, the requirement to store confiscated Narcotics Type I, II and III for a period of six months from the date they were confiscated will no longer be applicable, if there is no court filing or person claiming ownership of the confiscated narcotics.
The draft also contemplates potentially making the manufacture, import and export of medical cannabis by the private sector possible without having to partner with government agencies. According to the intent behind the amendment as mentioned in the draft amendment to the Narcotics Act, one of the main objectives behind this draft amendment is to allow qualified private sector operators to be able to manufacture cannabis for medical purposes, treat patients, and export the products. Therefore, if the draft amendment is passed as currently drafted, we understand that private sector business operators will no longer be required to partner with a government entity in order to apply for a license to manufacture, import, or export cannabis for medical purposes (removing the current government participation requirement on these activities by the private sector during the first five years from the effective date of the previous amendment). However, for import activities by a private business, only (i) cannabis seeds and (ii) cannabis products used for R&D purposes will be allowed to be imported during the first five years.
In any case, as the draft amendment will still need to go through additional legal process, which could take approximately four to six months, it could be subject to further changes.