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New technology ‘will efficiently keep tabs on marijuana in the country’

THE LATEST technology will efficiently control cannabis once it is reclassified as a legal item for research and other applications, an adviser to the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) told a key forum yesterday.

“We have a mapping system and many other tools to track, monitor and control [cannabis],” Pipop Chamnivikaipong, who works for ONCB, said. “The situation is |different from the past [when such tools did not exist].”

However, he was not able to convince everyone present at the forum organised by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Concerns still linger about whether Thai authorities will really be able to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to marijuana.

NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai presided over yesterday’s seminar, which was held to gather opinions from all sectors regarding the proposal to legalise the medical use of cannabis.

“We intend to conclude public opinions by next week and present data by mid-next month,” NLA member Somchai Swangkarn said, adding that the NLA should deliberate the amendment late next month or early December.

“It’s possible that the NLA will clear this amendment during its tenure,” he said.

Jetn Sirathranont, who chairs the NLA committee on public health, said several studies show that cannabinoid extracts had medical benefits.

“But we also need to discuss control measures,” he said.

Wichai Chaimongkhon, deputy secretary-general of ONCB, said his agency backed the idea of putting cannabis to good use and is giving serious thought to introducing control measures.

“We are planning control measures and they are based on the perspective that cannabis is a type of narcotic,” he said.

Pipop said users of cannabinoid substances can be registered and a Geographic Information System used to ensure only authorised users can get marijuana.

“A government agency should be assigned to control the use of marijuana if it is legalised,” Supaporn Pitiporn, a leading pharmacist at the Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital said. “We need to keep track and monitor users.”

However, according to the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, cannabis has been an ingredient in more than 100 traditional medicine recipes.

The department’s director-general, Marut Jirasrattasiri, said cannabis extracts could be tested at the Prasat Neurological Institute as part of research and clinical trials, in order to pave the way for the registration of cannabis-based drugs in Thailand.

Gamhom Nalanchang, a doctorate holder, said she had sold cannabis plants and related equipment to authorised marijuana users in collaboration with US agencies.

“Growers are registered and there is a ceiling on how many cannabis plants they can grow at home,” she said.

According to her, many growers are elderly people battling several diseases, who need marijuana to cope with the effects of medication.

A participant at the seminar said Khampramong Temple has been treating cancer patients with traditional medication for a decade now.

“Our experience shows that a herbal concoction, which uses cannabis, can help cancer patients,” he said, emphasising the need for the authorities to act fast in legalising cannabis for patients’ benefits.

Vicha Mahakun, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, said he hoped measures will be put in place to prevent a monopoly once marijuana is legalised.

Pipop added that legislators should also ensure that the law allows the use of all parts of the cannabis plant, not just the extract, to avoid problems later.

The Nation

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