Thailand is ready to accelerate its fledgling medical marijuana program. 

Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s health minister, said Wednesday that the government will now permit household cultivation of six cannabis plants in an effort to bolster supplies for medicinal products, and provide another potential cash crop for people there.

“We are in the process of changing laws to freely allow the medical use of marijuana,” he said in a speech in Bangkok, as reported by Bloomberg. “We have high confidence that marijuana will be among the major agricultural products for Thai households. We are speeding up the law changes. But there is a process to it.”

The policy change was telegraphed in September, when Charnvirakul’s Bhumjaithai Party announced that it was proposing a bill to make it legal for the country’s households to cultivate up to six cannabis plants.

Charnvirakul, who is also Thailand’s deputy prime minister, has made marijuana legalization a central part of the party’s platform.

Bloomberg reported that he said in his speech that legalization for recreational use is a goal, but it likely won’t come to fruition in the government’s current four-year term, which just began in July (the Bhumjaithai Party is the ruling coalition).

“We need more research and study before we legalize the recreational use of marijuana,” he said.

Medical Cannabis in Thailand

Such changes are expected in a country that has become a hotbed for marijuana reform. Last year, it became the first southeastern Asian country to legalize medical marijuana. In August, the government began distributing 10,000 bottles of medical cannabis oil to about 4,000 registered patients  around the country.

But the new law merely codified a longstanding tradition in Thailand, where cannabis has long been used for medical purposes.

“Marijuana has always been a part of Thailand’s culture,” said Kitty Chopaka, the chief marketing officer for the pro-legalization group the Highland Network, said last year. “For centuries, farmers would go out to the field, they would use kratom, by chewing the kratom leaves. Then they’d go home and smoke a bong. They’d smoke so that they could eat, relax, and then go to sleep. And then do the same thing all over again.”

Next year, Thailand will host the inaugural World Ganja Festival in a bid to highlight its burgeoning medical marijuana industry. 

The event will include educational seminars, information about technological innovations, and opportunities for business negotiations, and is slated to take place January 29-February 2 at a 40-acre venue near the Nong Yat Reservoir in Nakhon Phanom province.

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