Men harvest marijuana plants at a plantation in Japan. ©Issei Kato / Reuters

A bill by a key policy driver in Thailand’s bloody ‘war on drugs’ has been approved, relaxing the country’s hard-line anti-narcotics stance to allow cannabis to be used in medical research.

A notorious campaign to clamp down on methamphetamines led to an all out war against drugs in the early 2000s. The bid to deal with the nation’s drug problem saw then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launch an order to “overcome narcotics” in which he reportedly declared that there is “nothing under the sun which the Thai police cannot do”.

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It’s estimated that more than 2,000 people, the majority suspected drug dealers, were killed either in gun battles with police or rival gangs in the first months of Shinawatra’s 2003 drug clampdown.

Cannabis, alongside psychotropic drugs like mushrooms, is currently certified in Thailand as a Class 5 narcotic. Possession or production of the drug could result imprisonment of up to 15 years, according to Siam Legal, a legal network based in the country.

However, a draft bill comprised by the Narcotics Control Board, the agency responsible for drug strategies, could now allow limited cultivation for medical testing. The new draft law was reportedly approved by the Cabinet this week, after the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation said a green light would see it put before National Legislative Assembly for full approval.  

#Marijuana sales in US will reach $11.7bn this year

— RT (@RT_com) May 1, 2018

“The approval of this bill is an important matter,” said government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, as reported by Khaosod English. “Class 5 narcotics were allowed for cultivation and extraction but not for consumption, which made it impossible to use them for research on humans.”

Opium, hemp and kratom, a sedative at high doses, could also be decriminalized as part of the change.

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