In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Thailand’s minister takes steps to restrict non-medical cannabis use’ Illinois’ record-breaking adult-use cannabis sales in 2023; Wisconsin’s conservative approach to medical cannabis draws mixed reactions; and survey reveals patients find cannabis more effective than traditional medications for pain.
Thailand’s Minister Takes Unfortunate Steps to Restrict Non-Medical Cannabis Use
Thailand’s Public Health Minister, Dr. Cholnan Srikaew, has taken a significant step to reform the country’s nascent cannabis industry. His proposed legislation aimed at clarifying the use of cannabis, emphasizing its exclusive application for medical purposes only—essentially ending the adult-use market.
The proposed changes roll back the policies put in place almost two years ago by the previous Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul. On January 25, 2022, the country’s Food & Drug Administration approved an updated list of illegal drugs that no longer includes the cannabis plant. That move was in response to a draft proposal from the Public Health Ministry and was approved weeks earlier by the Narcotics Control Board.
Last Saturday, Dr. Srikaew said the legislation would include measures to control and prevent non-medical usage. These measures might take the form of ministerial regulations approved by the cabinet or recommendations from a panel of experts.
“The new law will clearly stipulate that cannabis must be used for medical purposes only and will also encourage the use of cannabis for a range of health benefits,” the minister said. “Regarding the using of cannabis for recreational purposes, there’ll be a clear measure to control and prevent this. The measure may come in form of a ministerial regulation passed by the cabinet, or from a panel.”
He also touched upon whether the purchase of cannabis would necessitate a medical certificate, clarifying that this aspect hasn’t been incorporated into the bill at this stage. Regarding existing legally registered cannabis stores, Dr. Srikaew clarified that no laws have been established to revoke licenses.
In accordance with Thailand’s Narcotics Code, any products containing more than 0.2% THC by weight will be considered illegal. Thailand adopted a medical marijuana program in 2018 and approved commercial cultivation in 2020.
Illinois Achieves Record-Breaking $1.6 Billion in Adult Use Cannabis Sales in 2023
According to data released by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), the Prairie State has hit a historic milestone, with adult use cannabis sales surpassing $1.6 billion in 2023—a 15% rise compared to the previous year. The state collected $417.6 million in sales taxes from adult-use cannabis dispensaries, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.
In a press release, Governor JB Pritzker emphasized his administration’s commitment to prioritizing equity in building an inclusive cannabis industry.
“From day one, my administration has put equity first to build the most accessible cannabis industry in the nation,” said the governor. “Our work will continue to repair past harm while providing opportunities for communities across the state and creating a more prosperous future.”
Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton underscored the positive impact of adult-use cannabis legalization on communities disproportionately affected by the failed war on drugs
“The benefits from these sales will be used to continue investing in our economic growth in historically disinvested populations,” she said.
42,124,741 cannabis items were sold in Illinois dispensaries during 2023. In-state residents contributed significantly to these sales, with purchases totaling $1,226,855,768.68—a 14% increase from the previous year. December 2023 set a new record for monthly sales, surpassing $154 million and beating the previous record set in December 2022 by over $10 million. Sales to out-of-state residents reached $408,126,252.05 in 2023, although this marked a 14% decrease.
Currently, Illinois is home to 177 adult-use cannabis dispensaries, including 67 social equity dispensaries that prioritize marginalized communities. Additionally, 133 applicants selected in the 2022 social equity lotteries are in the process of obtaining full dispensary licenses from IDFPR, along with 55 applicants selected in the Social Equity Criteria Lottery (SECL) in July 2023.
Wisconsin’s Conservative Approach to Medical Cannabis Draws Mixed Reactions
Wisconsin Assembly Republicans have introduced a cautious plan to legalize medical marijuana, receiving a lukewarm response from Senate Republicans and Governor Tony Evers.
The proposed bill restricts medical cannabis access to severely ill individuals with chronic diseases, excluding smokable cannabis. While open to a medical program, Governor Evers remains noncommittal on this proposal.
The bill must pass through the Assembly and Senate and receive Evers’ signature to become law. Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, who was considering a medical program, also refrained from clear support.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein sees it as a “small step in the right direction,” but worries it’s too restrictive.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos suggests this proposal is the most Assembly Republicans are willing to support.
The bill proposes five state-operated dispensaries and given neighboring states’ legal recreational cannabis, many Wisconsinites might opt to buy across state lines.
In 2022, sales to Wisconsin residents generated over $36 million in sales tax for Illinois, highlighting the potential economic impact.
Survey Reveals Patients Find Cannabis More Effective Than Traditional Medications for Pain
New data published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine has shed light on the experiences of patients with chronic pain and other conditions who have turned to cannabis for relief.
German researchers conducted the survey, targeting patients who had been prescribed cannabis or cannabinoid treatments since Germany legalized them in 2017, typically reserved for cases unresponsive to traditional therapies. The survey involved over 200 patients, most of whom suffered from chronic pain and used cannabis flowers or plant-derived extracts.
The findings align with previous research, as patients reported significant reductions in their daily pain levels when using cannabis as therapy. They also noted lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to their experiences with conventional treatments. Many participants expressed a higher degree of satisfaction with cannabis, describing it as “more effective” than their prior therapies. An impressive 94% of respondents reported having a more positive attitude toward cannabis following their treatment.
“The results of this cross-sectional survey suggest that most surveyed outpatients treated with prescription cannabinoids in Germany subjectively experience health benefits and symptom reduction associated with these therapies,” the study’s authors concluded.