The Thai government championed the economic and health benefits of cannabis as it unveiled Bangkok’s first full-time medical marijuana clinics today.

The first Thai clinic opened its doors in November on a part-time basis at Ang Thong Hospital on Nov. 28, 2019. There are now around 25 marijuana clinics in operation, but the two that opened in Bangkok today are said to be the first full-time offerings in the country.

One is at the Public Health Ministry and the other is in a Bangkok suburb. They are expected to be the flagship clinics for Thailand’s medical marijuana program.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the driving force behind the country’s burgeoning cannabis industry, toured the suburban clinic on Monday. “Today marks the beginning,” said Anutin. “We are fighting for the better health of Thai people and fighting for a better economy.”

Marijuana liberalization was a key component of Anutin’s election campaign last year. It helped his Bhumjaithai party become a significant player in the coalition government, and he also serves as Deputy Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha legalized medical marijuana a year ago as a New Year’s gift to the people, and the industry is already flourishing. The government opened a flagship production facility near Bangkok and it is yielding large amounts of cannabis oil to treat conditions like muscle pain, multiple sclerosis, and insomnia.

There are now six facilities dotted about the country, while Thai authorities have also turned illicit cannabis seized from dealers into medical marijuana oil if it meets the requisite safety and purity standards.

Thais will soon be permitted to grow cannabis at home and sell it to the government to bolster their household incomes. Each household will be able to cultivate up to six cannabis plants, and they are then compelled to wholesale the cannabis to the government.

Anutin said he hopes that medical cannabis will soon be added to the National List of Essential Medicine, which would see it covered by Thailand’s 30-baht ($1) universal health care scheme, making it easily accessible for patients.

The government has introduced a mascot called Dr. Ganja – a giant cannabis leaf wearing a doctor’s coat and stethoscope – who has appeared at clinic openings and official events promoting the industry.

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