Thailand’s state-run medical marijuana project has yielded its first 10,000 bottles of cannabis oil and it will distribute them to patients next week.

The outgoing military government legalized medicinal cannabis in March 2019 and it built a facility in Pathumthani province, near Bangkok. The first 140 cannabis plants began flowering in May and the buds have now matured, allowing government scientists to turn the dried flower into cannabis oil.

Withoon Danwiboon, executive director at the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, told a press conference that the oil is now ready to be distributed to 4,000 registered patients via hospitals across the country. It will be dished out on August 7.

Qualifying conditions include epilepsy, chronic pain, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and the side effects of chemotherapy, while those in palliative care can also apply. The Department of Traditional and Complementary Medicine have certified more than 3,000 doctors to prescribe cannabis to Thais.

Withoon admitted that supply is well short of meeting patient demand, and he pledged to speed up the production process. The next phase of the cultivation project will see the Government Pharmaceutical Organization convert a further 1,000 sq. ft. of its facility in Pathumthani province into cultivation space.

It will continue to increase capacity going forward, and it expects to be producing around 1 million bottles of cannabis oil by early 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul recently met with 11 cannabis industry executives from the U.S., Israel and Europe to discuss the country’s budding marijuana trade. However, Anutin reaffirmed the stance that no foreign businesses will be allowed to operate in Thailand for five years.

The aim is to allow a domestic trade to flourish and for Thais to gain experience and seniority within the industry, without being overwhelmed by foreign firms that could sweep in and dominate the trade.

Anutin, the millionaire leader of the Bhum Jai Thai party, told a press conference in Khon Kaen that foreigners can work in the country’s cannabis industry, but they will be unable to “own land or production facilities in our country, and most importantly, the copyright of marijuana-based potions created in Thailand”.

The new civilian government has made the medical cannabis industry a major priority in a bid to reinvigorate poor rural areas. Thailand is known across the world as a traditional weed-producing nation and it wants to capitalize on that by eventually becoming a major player in export markets.

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