Thailand’s interim parliament voted to approve marijuana for medical use and research, one of the senators who worked on the bill told CNN on Tuesday. Recreational use of the drug remains illegal.
Lawmaker Somchai Sawangkarn said the passing of an amendment to allow medical marijuana in the country “could be considered as a New Year gift to Thais.”
“The amendment (on the Narcotics Bill) was passed the second and third readings today. And will become effective once it is published on the Royal Gazette,” he said.”
The National Legislative Assembly’s 166 members voted in favor of the change and there were no votes objecting to the motion. There were 13 members who abstained from the vote, CNN reported.
This makes Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to allow the use of medical marijuana. The region is notorious for its hardline approach to drugs and strict penalties for drug-related crimes.
The British government approved medical marijuana earlier this year, and it became available on November 1 from the National Health System to patients with a prescription.
Medications derived from cannabis became legal in Germany last year. Medical marijuana is also legal in Australia and Ireland.
In the US, medical marijuana is legal in 30 states, though the laws governing what’s permitted vary from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.