Thailand approves medical marijuana

Getty Images  Ethan Miller

Getty Images Ethan Miller

Medical marijuana is also legal in Australia and Ireland.

According to CNN, all 166 members of the National Legislative Assembly voted in favour of the amendment to the country's Narcotics Bill, which allows the use of medical marijuana in the country.

Marijuana was used as a traditional medicine for centuries in Thailand before it was prohibited in the 1930s.

If the Bill enters law, it will make the politically conservative but socially relaxed country the first in Asia to approve civil unions, reported the Financial Times.

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"This is a New Year's gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people", said Somchai Sawangkarn, chairman of the drafting committee, in a televised parliamentary session. Recreational marijuana remains illegal in the country.

Purveyors, producers and researchers will need licenses to handle the drugs, while end-users will need prescriptions.

Thailand, which boasts one of the world's strictest drug laws, has approved medical marijuana for use across the whole country, Reuters reports.

The main controversy surrounding marijuana in Thailand involved patent requests by foreign firms that could allow them to dominate the market, making for more hard access for Thai patients and researchers. As with most countries in the region, illicit drug trafficking can be punishable by death. Recreational use of the drug remains illegal.

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Chokwan Chopaka, an activist with Highland Network, a cannabis legalisation advocacy group in Thailand, said: 'This is the first baby step forward'.

Public hearings showed overwhelming support for legalizing medical cannabis and kratom, a substance produced from the leaves of a tropical tree.

In the USA, medical marijuana is legal in 30 states, though the laws governing what's permitted vary from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. He added that the amended legislation will allow for more opportunities to help patients suffering from chronic illness.

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