Newswise — Chulalongkorn University’s College of Public Health Sciences held an opening ceremony of the Drug Dependence Research Center at the Chulalongkorn–Saraburi Land Development Project. Guests of honor, Mr. Niyom Termsrisuk, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Justice, and Professor Emeritus Charas Suwanwela, M.D., former Chulalongkorn University President and former President of the University Council, and Prof. Narin Hiransuthikul, M.D., Chulalongkorn University Vice President, attended the opening ceremony and performed the ceremonial cutting of the first medical–grade, organically grown cannabis bouquets.

‘Marijuana’ is a phychoactive substance that has always been under the spotlight and cannabis extracts are now being researched for medicinal benefits.  Designated in 1980 by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the first and only WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Drug Dependence (DDRC/WHOCC) in Thailand, Chulalongkorns Drug Dependence Research Center is determined to find solutions for substance abuse problems through research and disseminate knowledge to the public.  This includes the research of medical marijuana and growing cannabis organically.

The Drug Dependence Research Center aims to grow the medical-grade cannabis organically without the use of toxic chemicals, which will essentially maximize the medical benefits. At the same time, eliminating chemical use helps avoid soil and cannabis plant contamination, thereby reducing the cost of extracting possible contaminants.  Research conducted by the DDRC at the Chula-Saraburi Land Development Project is comprehensive, starting from mixing and fertilizing the soil to harvesting the cannabis

ProfDrNarin Hirunsuthikul, Vice President of Chulalongkorn University, said that “to find sustainable solutions to drug problems, we must cross apply the knowledge from several disciplines, as well as add social innovation and advanced technology in the analysis and classification of cannabis.  Chulalongkorn University has highly qualified personnel and extensive research in various disciplines; therefore, applying a multidisciplinary approach to the development of marijuana research is a natural step forward, starting with control of the cultivation, factors affecting the cannabis growth, breed improvement, as well as lab and industrial analysis.  The ceremonial cutting of the first medical-grade, organically grown cannabis bouquet is a symbolic gesture of launching the cannabis research, relevant legislations and policy.  The project has been supported by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) since 2019, and from the Ministry of Justice through the Narcotics Police Headquarters (NCCC) for over 48 years.

AssocProfChitlada Areesantichai, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Chulalongkorn College of Public Health, and Director of the Drug Dependence Research Center discussed the results of the scientific and social science of marijuana research in Phase I.  The center is focused on the identification of cannabis strains in Thailand, and studies have shown that out of 22 samples nationwide, two large groups can be formed, classified by plant genetics and the number of main compounds contained in the cannabis plant in each area.  The differences may be due to various factors and harmful contaminants, such as arsenic and cadmium were found.  At the moment, the research has entered Phase II, which focuses on factors affecting cultivation, breed improvement for disease resistance, control system layout, and policy guidelines and strategies to control marijuana for national security. 

ProfDrSathirakorn Pongpanich, Dean of the Chulalongkorn College of Public Health, added that the cannabis cultivation is done in three greenhouses and covers three environmental systems: indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cultivation.  This increases success in breed improvement, and definite identification of each active substance for the best possible medical use.  The DDRC has received support from both inside and outside of Chulalongkorn University, including the faculties of Engineering, Science and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Ministry of Justice, and the Public Health Office of Saraburi.

Over the years, the focus has been on cultivation improvement, breed development, and transfer of empirical data from both scientific and social science research, which reflects the demand and supply sides to the public. Moreover, the center has acquired knowledge on database system for surveillance, prevention, and control of cannabis, proposed policy guidelines, and advocated relevant legislations.

MrNiyom Termsrisuk, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice cautioned that marijuana is still an addictive substance, despite being allowed to be used for medical purposes and the public should benefit if people are well-informed and provided with reliable data from research.

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