Thailand’s first medical cannabis clinic opened in Ang Thong yesterday and another 31 are set to throw open their doors in the near future.

Public Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Prapon Tangsrikertikul was at Ang Thong Hospital for the grand unveiling of the clinic. The staff all wore cannabis leaf badges, smiled and held up bottles of cannabis oil as they posed with Prapon for a photo to mark the event.

“This clinic will provide treatment to patients who have one of two diseases – multiple sclerosis and the final stage of cancer,” said Prapon.

It is the first of 32 planned dispensaries to open across Thailand. Trained medical staff will offer advice and establish guidelines for patients that need cannabis oil to treat their illnesses.

Thailand’s outgoing military government legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes at the very end of 2018, calling it a “New Year’s gift” to the people. General Prayut Chan-o-cha then stepped down to make way for a civilian government, but he remained Prime Minister of Thailand after the 2019 general election. He has continued to allow the country’s nascent marijuana industry to flourish, while Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul – who is also the Deputy Prime Minister – has really driven it forward.

A government owned facility near Bangkok produced its first 10,000 bottles of cannabis oil in August and distributed them to hospitals. It continues to expand the capacity at the facility and it is ramping up production, while it has also turned seized cannabis into medical products to meet demand in the meantime.

It is planning to allow Thais to grow cannabis at home and sell it to the government in order to earn extra cash. Each household will be permitted to cultivate up to six cannabis plants, but they must wholesale it to the government.

Thai patients will benefit from a significant increase in production in the months ahead, and the next step would be to commence exports around the world. Thailand could significantly undercut countries like Canada and Australia due to the cost of labour, while it benefits from excellent growing conditions and it has a long heritage of cannabis cultivation, so it could emerge as a major player in the global marijuana trade in the not too distant future.