Laos has formed a task force committee to conduct a study on the potential of marijuana for medicinal use.
The committee, led by the Minister of Health Dr Bounkong Syhavong, is to carry out a study on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes as well as its economic, social, and political impact while ensuring compliance with international principles, the Vientiane Times reported.
The Lao government will take further steps based on the findings of the study.
The government’s move came after the health ministry submitted a proposal to build a hospital to treat cancer with traditional medicines extracted from marijuana and other natural herbs.
The government first agreed in March to organize a seminar to discuss and study medicinal marijuana.
Since the cultivation, trade and use of marijuana are currently prohibited in Laos, current legislation has to be amended if Laos were to legalize medicinal marijuana, Vientiane Times noted.
“Despite being illegal, many Lao people are believed to use cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue,” the paper added.
Prohibition Partners, a nongovernmental organization with a mission to open up the international cannabis industry, believes cannabis producers and large pharmaceutical companies from the West see enormous business potential in Asia, which is considered the “untapped” market.
The organization estimates 85.5 million of Asia’s roughly 4.5 billion population in 2019 are cannabis users, projecting the Asian market will be worth USD 8.5 billion in 2024, with medical use accounting for USD 5.8 billion of that.
This is mainly because allowing medical cannabis is seen as a step toward approving recreational use as seen in Canada’s case, which legalized cannabis in late 2018 after years of allowing medical use.
South Korea, for example, legalized cannabis in November last year although it still remains a subject for strict control.
In the same month, Japan approved clinical trials for the cannabis compound Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used in treating epileptic patients.
The move was followed by Thailand that approved marijuana for medical use and research in December last year.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in June that drugs had destroyed many lives, but wrongheaded governmental policies had destroyed many more.
He noted that he thought it was obvious that after 40 years of war on drugs, it had not worked and there should be the decriminalization of drugs, adding that such a move would be a “game-changer”.