The International Narcotics Control Board is said to be “deeply concerned” about the rapid liberalization of cannabis laws in Thailand.

The southeast Asian nation has a long history of cannabis cultivation and its strains are renowned as some of the finest in the world. However, anti-marijuana laws have previously been extremely strict in Thailand and it has handed out life sentences to traffickers.

Yet that all changed when the outgoing military government used a televised parliamentary session in December 2018 to formally legalize cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. The junta-appointed government called it a “New Year’s gift” to the people and green-lighted a state-run production facility near Bangkok.

The first crop was completed this month and the facility yielded its first batch of 10,000 cannabis oil bottles for distribution to patients. The oil was sent to 12 hospitals around the country this week, which then dished out the doses to 4,000 patients.

A civilian government has since been elected, although the military retains a powerful role in running the country, and the plan is to significantly ramp up the domestic cultivation scheme.

This has caught the attention of the Vienna-based INCB, an independent, quasi-judicial expert body established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. It has 13 members, 10 of whom are nominated by governments around the world and three of whom are nominated by the World Health Organization.

INCB president Sumyai Viroj said Thailand is at risk of failing to comply with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

“Before the government proceeds with any drug policy, it is strongly recommended that it examines these agreements,” he told the Bangkok Post. Viroj added that Thailand still needs to provide details on where cannabis will be cultivated and estimates of the anticipated consumption if it is to fall in line with regulations.

He warned that Thailand would be blocked from importing certain medicines if it flouts the aforementioned international conventions.

Anutin Charnvirakul, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister, is the driving force behind its burgeoning legal cannabis trade. He recently met with 11 cannabis industry executives from the U.S., Israel, and Europe to discuss the industry, but he said that foreign businesses be barred from owning cannabis cultivation facilities in Thailand for five years, so as to allow domestic companies to thrive.

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