BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday banned applications for patents related to commercial uses of marijuana until a new law on medical cannabis is enforced.
In an order issued under Section 44 of the 2014 interim charter, which allows Gen. Prayuth to enact any laws he deems fit, the director of the intellectual properties agency must either throw out all pending patents that involve cannabis or remove marijuana from those patents within 90 days.
Members of the public can file requests to patent cannabis strains again when a new legislation authorizing medical uses of marijuana is formally enacted.
A lawmaker behind the legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana said Prayuth was simply confirming what the laws already said.
“The pending patents are illegal because they violate Section 9 of the [intellectual property] law, which bans patents of narcotic substances,” Somchai Sawangkan said by phone. “This problem is now considered solved by the law.”
The news came months after marijuana legalization activists discovered that foreign pharmaceuticals were applying for broad patents covering all strains of cannabis. The revelation prompted outcry that domestic uses of medical marijuana would be severely restricted by existing patents.
In response to the criticism, the Intellectual Property Department said in January that the pending requests could stay while the agency consults with legal experts on the best course of action.
Somchai said Prayuth’s order today settles any debate. He also noted that the law does not ban foreign pharmaceuticals from seeking patents on marijuana strains after medical cannabis is legalized.
“Anyone can file for patents. They are not barring anyone,” the lawmaker said. “Everyone is entitled to the same rights.”
A law on medical marijuana was recently greenlit by the interim parliament in December, but it would not be considered in effect until His Majesty the King signs it into laws.
King Vajiralongkorn can deliberate on the law as long as he wishes, Somchai said, adding that the process typically takes about 45 to 90 days.