UPDATE: July 22, 2020
Cannabis Activist and CEO of Elevated Estate, Kitty Chopaka, reached out to the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) who has been able to confirm that properly licensed private clinics are now authorized to offer cannabis prescriptions (See her YouTube podcast video below).
While there are still some questions about how the clinic is handling the actual cannabis itself, it does appear that cannabis medicinal therapy is making some quiet advances.
Recently we’ve been seeing reports from foreigners in Thailand that they have been receiving CBD and THC therapy from specific Bangkok-based cannabis clinics and we’re often asked if these clinics are real clinics or scams.
After interviewing several foreigners who have reported receiving CBD and-or THC products from these clinics and even doing a bit of recon on our own, here’s what we can say; we don’t know.
What we do know is that of the two most often cited clinics (though there are others), one of the clinics is not listed on the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) website but the other one is (we are not going to name the clinics here until we know for certain that the services they provide are legal).
Yet, both are listed on the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website as licensed to be distribute cannabis products.
Both also provide a medical certificate signed by a doctor that says that the user is being treated with medical cannabis.
At least one of the clinics provides GPO (Government Pharmaceutical Office) brand cannabis products which are known to be produced by the Thai government. Foreigner patients of the other clinic have reported both GPO brand and unlabeled products.
Sounds like everything is on the up and up, right?
Red Flags Abound at Foreigner-Friendly CBD and THC Clinics
There are some potential red flags that make us a little reluctant to believe this too good to be true development of foreigners being able to receive CBD and THC cannabis treatment in Thailand.
The first potential red flag is that the medical certificates issued by both clinics are in entirely in English. It seems odd that a letter authorizing one to possess a Category 5 narcotic would be in English and not Thai, since the purpose of the letter is to keep you safe from arrest by Thai law enforcement. Another potential red flag related to the medical certificates is that they are issued on the clinic’s letterhead and not on any sort of official MoPH letterhead. According to Thai nationals who have received their cannabis medicine from government hospitals, their medical certificates are in Thai and on MoPH letterhead.
This has been updated to reflect new information which does indicate that these prescriptions are legitimate.
A medical marijuana certificate issued to foreigners receiving CBD and THC treatment that was made available to us stated the following:
Name [DR NAME REDACTED] a medical doctor holding medical license No. [LIC # REDACTED] issued on date [DATE REDACTED] have examined [PATIENT NAME REDACTED] on date [DATE REDACTED] and have found [CONDITION REDACTED]. The doctor has prescribed medical cannabis for [# OF MONTHS REDACTED] month usage since [DATE REDACTED] – [DATE REDACTED].
No mention of what specific products were prescribed (i.e. CBD 1:1, THC, etc).
Admittedly, this could be a non-issue. Perhaps because government owned hospitals fall under the MoPH, the medical certificates issued by them are on MoPH letterhead. But, with the penalties for possession of narcotics in Thailand being so severe,
we would err on the side of caution until there is an official statement from the MoPH, the FDA, or the Narcotics Control Board specifically detailing what a medical certificate is supposed to look like. Clarification from the Office of Narcotics Control Board has been issued.
Another peculiarity worth noting is that people report paying anywhere from 1,000 baht to 1,500 baht per 5ml of 1:1 CBD oil or pure THC oil.
Not only does this seem egregiously expensive, but the MoPH website promotes cannabis medicine as being free on their website.
Again, it is unclear whether or not cannabis therapy is only free to Thais going to a government run clinic under Thailand’s public healthcare system or whether it’s supposed to be free for any patient. The MoPH site regarding cannabis is only in Thai and is presumed to be directed specifically at Thai citizens.
However, even if cannabis medicine is only free for Thai citizens, the pricing in these foreigner-friendly clinics is about 10x what it would cost in the US or other countries with legalized cannabis (medical or adult-use). And presumably, there are much higher production costs in those countries along with the overhead of stringent regulatory compliance and taxes.
Why Is It So Hush-Hush When Foreigners Get CBD or THC Therapy?
Another factor that might raise some red flags is that almost all knowledge about this cannabis therapy is via word of mouth on social media.
These clinics have a license to print money, why are they not advertising? Where is the Bangkok Post story about the first medical cannabis clinic that is seeing foreigners as CBD patients? Why are they not buying Facebook ads? They would have lines around the block.
Even patients of these clinics seem reluctant to publicly name the clinics on social media, often asking others to PM or DM them for the name.
The reluctance to openly discuss these cannabis clinics by name seems to indicate that even the patients claiming to have the legal right to possess cannabis products in Thailand feel uneasy about it.
Of course, people may just feel reluctant to discuss medical cannabis. There’s a certain stigma about it and even in countries or places where it’s legal, sometimes people feel residual guilt from 50+ years of criminalization.
But, these foreigners have already admitted to possessing and using medical cannabis, a major crime if these cannabis clinics are a scam, and even openly discuss their medical conditions. It just seems odd that they’re so reluctant to publicly discuss the source of the cannabis.
One social media user even stated, “I don’t want to cause them any problems.” What kinds of problems would one cause by recommending a completely legal service? How often does one hear of a cardiac patient saying that he can’t tell you the name of his cardiologist because he doesn’t want cause them any problems by referring patients to them?
It’s very unfortunate that the Thai government has not produced more specific guidelines so people, especially foreigners, can obtain specific guidance on what is legal and illegal.
There is no website to go to that says this is what a medical certificate has to look like or here is what you need to do in order to stay on the right side of the law.
More Concerns Raised By Marketers
Recently we’ve even seen a website that claims to be able to help foreigners procure CBD and THC along with supplying a referral to a clinic that will provide a medical marijuana certificate.
This website posted on a social media group for expats in Thailand and, again, it raises more red flags.
For instance the person who posted the link for the referral site, on his profile page, listed his employer as a medical clinic in Pattaya.
When confronted with the fact that the website for the clinic that he works for and the website for this referral site he was promoting are on the same web server, he admitted that the two sites were related.
Similarly, there were multiple questions about the legalities of what they were doing that had been posed to this person that did not seem to receive satisfactory answers.
And several days after this person posted this person posted about the referral site and discussed the clinic, the referral website has since been offline (as of the time of this writing, it’s been in “maintenance mode” for over a week UPDATE: It is still in “maintenance mode” as of our update on July 22, 2020).
It certainly could be down for actual maintenance, but it also is curious that the site would begin to advertise its business and then close the website days later.
Does any of this mean that it’s not legal? No. There are many reasons why someone would want to separate the marketing side from the business side of a clinic. And perhaps the guy doing social media marketing isn’t a legal expert.
But, it also doesn’t clarify much or instill confidence either.
Separating Clinics From Distribution Might Help
It’s also not helpful that the clinics that prescribe medical cannabis are also the suppliers of the medical cannabis.
With the way that the Thai medical cannabis system is today, making a clinic both the source of the medicine and the issuer of the medical certificate means that it’s very difficult for patients to know what is legal and what isn’t.
In California, the doctor and the dispensary were (for the most part) separated. Although some doctors had loose affiliations with clinics, you went to a doctor to get a medical marijuana card, and your medical marijuana card was valid at any dispensary.
And, one of the reasons for caution, is that in some US states that had medical marijuana, there were fake doctors and doctors who later had their medical licenses suspended. Similarly, there were clinics that set up and operated for a month or two but then disappeared.
The difference though is that if a patient had a valid medical card and bought cannabis products at an illegal dispensary, they were covered legally. If they were given a fake medical card, a legit dispensary would refuse to sell to them.
Thailand needs a similar set of checks and balances as currently the legal burden would still fall on the CBD or THC patient and those consequences could be quite severe.
It’s equally unfortunate that even the government websites don’t match. The MoPH website says here are the list of clinics that are authorized to distribute cannabis, but the FDA website has a more expansive list of clinics allowed to distribute cannabis therapies.
In a perfect world, if a doctor prescribed you a medication and the doctor was not authorized to prescribe it or gave you a medical certificate that wasn’t legally recognized, you would be absolved of any legal consequences due to the fact that you had every reason to believe that everything was legal.
But is that a risk you’re willing to take in a foreign country with extremely strict drug laws?
Again, it should be stressed, nobody is saying that anything illegal is going on. It’s simply a matter of risk management.
Foreigners who have benefited from CBD and THC treatment in the past in their home country or those that would like to try cannabis-based therapies are anxious for Thailand to allow them access.
However they should not allow their desire for cannabis treatment to fog their decision making.
As has been repeatedly stated, this could all be 100% legal. But, there are certain things that don’t feel quite right which every individual will have to weigh in their decision making regarding whether or not cannabis therapy in Thailand is currently right for them.
The Pros and Cons
TL;DR – We’ve broken down the pro and con factors to consider if you’re thinking about using one of these clinics (or have done so in the past already). Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual, but we want to make sure you make an informed decision.
Doctors/clinics are listed on FDA website
Cannabis products (sometimes) appear to be from GPO and other recognized brands
Patients report that the GPO and other recognized brands do appear to have the desired effects (i.e they are what they say they are CBD/THC)
Medical cannabis certificates are issued to patients
Clinics do not appear on Ministry of Public Health website
Some patients have reported cannabis medicine being provided in unmarked bottles
Medical cannabis certificates being issued at clinics are entirely in English and issued on clinic letterhead rather than any sort of government form UPDATED 22-JUL-2020 – The ONCB indicates this is not an issue.
It is unclear whether or not one could use a medical cannabis certificate issued by one clinic to obtain medical cannabis at a different clinic, helping to verify validity
Cannabis products seem grossly overpriced compared to other countries with legal medical cannabis
So far, there is no mention of medical cannabis being available at these clinics in traditional media sources like The Bangkok Post or The Nation that we could find
We are unaware of any advertising being done for these clinics (with the exception of the referral site that has been in maintenance mode ever since posting about their site on a private Facebook group)