Cannabis among top priorities for new Thai government

BANGKOK, July 22 (Reuters) - Developing a medical cannabis industry is among top policy priorities for Thailand's new government, according to a document released before the formal announcement.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former junta leader who heads a civilian government following March elections, is due to set out the policies for debate in the national assembly on Thursday. The policy document was released on Sunday.

Developing the medical cannabis industry was a key demand of the Bhumjaithai party, one of the biggest parties in Prayuth's 19-party coalition.

"The study and technological development of marijuana, hemp, and other medicinal herbs should be sped up for the medical industry to create economic opportunity and income for the people," the policy document said.

Thailand, which had a tradition of using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue, legalised marijuana for medical use and research last year.

Bhumjaithai party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, now a deputy prime minister and health minister, said his goal was to enable all Thais to grow marijuana to make money.

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Anutin told local media it was important to remove hemp with a high level of cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of banned drugs for cultivation and then to free up hospitals to prescribe drugs containing the chemical compound.

Among other urgent government priorities were addressing drought, labour and economic problems.

Also on the list was a study to amend a new consitution that critics say preserves the hold of the military indefinitely. This study had been a demand of another coalition partner, the Democrat Party.

However, any constitutional changes would require the support of the Senate - which is entirely made up of appointees of the previous junta. (Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Michael Perry)

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