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Govt okays debate on medicinal marijuana

The government has given a green light to debate and study the possibility of using marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The Prime Minister’s Office last week issued an announcement entrusting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other sectors concerned to organise a seminar to discuss and study the medical use of marijuana.
Outcomes of the seminar discussion will be reported to the government.
The results will be a reference for the government to decide its next step, the government’s spokesman Professor Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher told Vientiane Times yesterday.
The government’s permission to launch the discussion on medicinal marijuana came after the Ministry of Health submitted a proposal to build a hospital to heal cancer patients using traditional medicines extracted from natural herbs and marijuana.   
Under Lao legislation, the cultivation, trade and use of marijuana are still prohibited.
The government has told Lao relevant sectors to study lessons learnt by many countries that permit research or use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Medical marijuana in Canada has been legal since 2001, according to the BBC.
Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the sale of cannabis for recreational use in 2013. Canada followed its footsteps becoming the second country legalising the possession and use of recreational cannabis, the BBC reported in October last year. A number of US states have also voted to end prohibition. 
Thailand’s National Assembly recently passed a bill legalising the use of marijuana and kratom -- a traditional herb -- for research and medical use, AFP reported.
Director General of the Healthcare and Rehabilitation Department under the Ministry of Health, Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounnack Saysanasongkham said there were news reports suggesting that some western countries legally use marijuana for treatment of some diseases.
“The cultivation and use [of marijuana in those countries] have been strictly controlled,” he said, adding that use for treatment has to be certified by medical doctors.
Dr Chaleun said the permission to start the debate over marijuana was still at the early stage, saying there was a need to carry out a thorough study before the government could make a decision.
If the findings of the study were positive and the government decided to go ahead, approval would still need to be sought from the Party Politburo and the National Assembly.
Current legislation that prohibits the cultivation and use of marijuana has to be amended if Laos legalises medicinal marijuana.
While Laos is undertaking a study and the plant is still prohibited, the Prime Minister’s Office told the Ministries of National Defence, Public Security, and provinces to keep a close eye on preventing the cultivation and trade of marijuana.  

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update March 20, 2019)

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