Thai cancer patient welcomes cannabis legalization

STORY: "Bee" as she is known, is one of the Thais wholeheartedly welcoming the government's decision to de-list it as a narcotic. She was a recreational pot smoker but now brews cannabis in an infusion and has been using cannabis oil for the last three years to cope with pain and anxiety due to cancer.

It's also effective in dealing with fatigue, insomnia, vomiting and appetite loss from chemotherapy which she started in January, as the side effects are milder than commercial drugs, says the 42-year-old.

Thailand, which has a tradition to use cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue authorized medicinal use in 2018. It is now the first Asian country to legalize the growing of marijuana and its consumption in food and drinks and this means people like Bee can get steady, good-quality supplies for a cheaper price.

Before, finding cannabis was sometimes hit-or-miss.

"Sometimes, you lose the money to the dealer because sometimes, the police might have caught them on the way. Now, you don't have to lose money. Sometimes, people also cheated you because you know nothing about it (cannabis)," says Bee, who shreds the dried plant and boils it to make the infusion, filling her one-bedroom apartment with its distinctive smell.

Bee said she felt like a "lab rat" previously because she was uncertain about the potency of the cannabis she obtained and how to tailor the dosage for herself as this differs between individuals.

It was also costly to buy slightly more reliable imported cannabis buds, which could cost up to 700 baht ($20) before the reform. Prices now are around 350 baht ($10) per gram, according to Bee.

Thai lawmakers are still debating a draft cannabis regulation bill meaning there is still confusion about how it can be legally used. A draft bill is making its way through parliament but is months away from becoming law. After de-criminalizing, the central government has been issuing piecemeal rules to try to bring order to cannabis use.

"You need education, you need to study how to use it, the right way. Otherwise, it can be harm(ful), it can be dangerous as well," says Bee.

Smoking pot in public can violate health laws, however, and the possession and sale of cannabis extracts containing more than 0.2% of its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is also not allowed. Other restrictions include banning it from schools. Retailers are now required to provide clear information on usage of cannabis in food and drinks.

Thailand has said previously it hopes legalizing the growing of marijuana and its consumption in food and drinks will help the agriculture and medical research sectors of the economy.

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