Biothai, FTA Watch to float advice on marijuana

Several non-government groups are to meet Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong Friday over highly controversial foreign patents on extracting medical benefits from weed.

Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand (Biothai) and FTA Watch will put forward a five-point proposal to prevent the patenting of marijuana extracts by large, foreign pharmaceutical firms.

The proposal will be floated later today at a meeting on matters surrounding marijuana patenting organised by the government.

The meeting, chaired by Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, will be attended by representatives from Biothai, FTA Watch, Rangsit University and Thai Traditional Medical Council, said Biothai director Witoon Lienchamroon on Thursday.

Mr Sontirat had previously promised to hold a formal discussion on the requests by the foreign firms to patent marijuana extracts.

The requests, which were submitted to the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), are being staunchly opposed by advocacy groups who fear that the patents would solely benefit large pharmaceutical companies.

The concerns were raised after the National Legislative Assembly passed a bill to legalise the controlled production, import and use of marijuana and kratom for medical and research purposes last month.

Mr Witoon said that first, Biothai and FTA Watch want the government to reject at least 10 patent request that the groups have found to be in clear breach of the existing patent law.

Second, the government should revise parts of the handbook on the processing of patent requests to remove regulatory hurdles that make rejecting the requests difficult, he said.

Third, any requests that are found to run contrary to the patent law must be dropped immediately and the details of every patent request must be published online so that people who disagree can object to it in time, said Mr Witoon.

Fourth, he continued, the patent law should be amended to require every request to declare the origin of resources that is to be patented.

Such a requirement is contained in the patent laws of Switzerland, Norway, China and India, for the sake of biological resources and local wisdom protection, he said.

Last, the groups strongly oppose any attempts by the government to make Thailand a part of any international trade agreement that requires the country to change its patent law in such a way that does not respect the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), Mr Witoon said.

The 1991 Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Mr Witoon noted, required Thailand to change its laws on the protection of plant species, which is detrimental to the country's food and drug security in the future.

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