Weed seized by law enforcement agencies usually suffers a grim fate. Cannabis plants are either incinerated, trash compacted, mulched or disposed of in other painfully final—and incredibly wasteful—ways. But Thailand has a different plan. From now on, Thailand will use unauthorized cannabis seized by law enforcement to produce medicines.
Thailand Takes from Drug Traffickers to Give to Patients
Thailand is trying to get its own medical cannabis program off the ground. But the problem is that the cannabis plants to supply it are still in the ground. Speaking before the press Tuesday, Secretary General of Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board, Niyom Termsrisuk, revealed that certified cannabis farms are not yet ready to produce a harvest. As a result, Termsrisuk asked the Public Health Ministry what it was doing with all the cannabis police had seized.
Indonesia, Mexico, Germany, Australia, the United States. These are just some of the places where the standard operating procedure is to burn or otherwise destroy any cannabis seized by law enforcement.
Sometimes, someone proposes something a little more constructive, like using the heat from the fire to warm homes in the winter. But usually, a crop representing hours of work and massive amounts of resources just goes up in smoke once police get their hands on it.
But now, thanks to an agreement with the Public Health Ministry, cannabis seized in Thailand will be redirected to approved organizations for processing into cannabis-based medicines.
In short, the cannabis cops seize from drug traffickers will be used to produce medicine for patients. At least, that is, until certified farms can harvest their cannabis plants.
Testing Illicit Cannabis for Hazardous Substances Poses Challenges
Redirecting seized cannabis away from the incinerator and toward medicine is a best-of-both-worlds solution. But it isn’t without its difficulties. The clandestine nature of drug trafficking often means that illicit cannabis products are exposed to harmful chemicals and unsanitary conditions at multiple stages in the supply line.
As a result, Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board has to make sure that the cannabis it redirects toward patients is free of contaminants. Unfortunately, that could mean a large portion of unauthorized cannabis will be unsuitable for medical purposes. Pesticides, heavy metals, microbes and other hazardous substances pose substantial risks to patients’ wellbeing.
Currently, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is working to establish safe limits for each hazardous substance potentially found in contraband cannabis. Much in the same way U.S. states have threshold levels for common contaminants. Once the ministry establishes those guidelines, police forensic specialists will test the seized cannabis.
Ultimately, it’s an ad hoc, patchwork solution. But it prioritizes patients needs and aims to prevent a delay in their ability to obtain safe medical cannabis. “We are sure we can hand over the cannabis in our possession to registered organizations for producing cannabinoid medicines by the end of this month,” Niyom said.