Marijuana could generate up to Bt8 billion for Thailand’s pharmaceutical industry over the next five years, but farmers stand to make little from growing the herb, experts say.
Last year, Thailand removed cannabis and hemp leaves from its list of banned narcotics (seeds and buds remain banned).
Individuals are still prohibited from growing marijuana for sale, though universities, community enterprises, medical professionals and traditional medicine practitioners can seek a licence to grow it commercially.
“We believe marijuana has great potential as a cash crop because more patients will start using marijuana-based drugs soon,” said Ravissa Suchato, an economist at Kasetsart University’s Agricultural and Resource Economics Department.
Ravissa led a study titled “Economic Impact of Commercialised Cannabis Cultivation in Thailand”, which was funded by the Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) and covered both traditional and modern medicine.
The study found that modern medicine has used marijuana to treat patients suffering from three key conditions – cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Two natural compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are used in both traditional and modern medicine.
THC produces a sense of euphoria (a “high”), while CBD has been shown to help patients suffering from anxiety, depression and seizures.
In Thailand, cannabis-based medication is used for palliative care of cancer patients, not as a cure for disease, said Ravissa, adding that almost 1 million (996,743) patients are believed to have taken marijuana-based medicines in Thailand last year.
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