Thai authorities have announced plans to begin converting seized cannabis from illicit growers into oil for medical marijuana patients.

The police seized more than 1,000 kg from a criminal gang this week and they have passed it on Department of Thai Traditional, Alternative Medicine and the Department of Medical Sciences to process. That will yield 600,000 bottles of cannabis oil for the domestic medicinal market, while the department will hold back 5 kg for medical experiments.

Niyom Termsrisuk, secretary-general at the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said his team gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration to make the transfer. He added that this move is not violating any convention on narcotics.

Most authorities destroy illicit cannabis that they seize, but Thailand clearly feels confident in the provenance and quality of the marijuana it confiscated.

This month Thailand’s state-run medical marijuana project has yielded its first 10,000 bottles of cannabis oil, and it began distributing them to patients last week. The outgoing military government legalized medical cannabis in December 2018, and a state-run facility near Bangkok is up and running.

Plants began flowering in May and the oil is now with patients after being distributed to hospitals across the country.

However, demand vastly exceeds supply right now. The government expects to be producing around 1 million bottles of cannabis oil at the facility by early 2020, but in the meantime it plans to make up the shortfall by working with confiscated cannabis.

Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Thailand include epilepsy, chronic pain, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and the side effects of chemotherapy. “Doctors will diagnose each patient and prescribe each formula to be used,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is playing a key role in driving growth within the nascent industry. “This will not cause harm or addiction if it is used under medical supervision.”

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

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