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29 January 2019Asia

Thailand suspends medical marijuana patents

Thailand’s government has suspended all patents for medical marijuana products, a little more than a month after the country’s parliament voted to approve marijuana for medical use and research.

Yesterday, January 28, Thailand’s junta-government, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), announced the decision.

The country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha ordered the Department of Intellectual Property to temporarily invalidate all relevant patent applications, as current Thai IP law does not allow natural substances to be patented.

The decree will remain in effect until legislation on medical marijuana comes into force. Although the regulated use of medical marijuana was approved by parliament last month, it must be approved by King Maha Vajiralongkorn to become law.

Once approved, new applications are expected to be allowed that meet conditions specified under the new law.

After the legislation was approved, Somchai Sawangkarn, chairman of the drafting committee, said in a televised parliamentary session at the time: “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”

The bill, which still outlawed recreational use of the drug, was praised by the National Farmers Council of Thailand as providing a “new economic crop” for Thai farmers.

“I expect Thailand can make 100 billion baht ($3.17 billion) a year from growing cannabis and selling the raw material and cannabis oil,” the council’s chairman, Prapat Panyachartrak, told news agency AFP.

But, some feared that foreign pharmaceutical companies would gain valuable patents to produce medical cannabis and extracts, and monopolise the market.

“Those holding the patents could stop Thai universities and government agencies from conducting research,” Witoon Liamchamroon, director of BioThai, a network of agricultural activists, farmers and academics, told AFP last month.

According to Reuters, British biopharma company GW Pharmaceuticals and Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical are among the foreign firms who have already submitted patent requests related to the use of medical marijuana.

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