Dechen Dolkar

The government granted provisional authorisation for the establishment of a medicinal cannabis product manufacturing facility in Ugyentse, Samtse, in August.

The facility will focus on producing Cannabidiol (CBD) oils with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of less than 0.3 percent.

However, it’s important to note that the authorisation is conditional upon the applicant refraining from manufacturing during the provisional authorisation phase until they receive final approval from the relevant authority.

Any deviations from the approved technical specifications during provisional period must also be approved by the authority.

The applicant must to adhere to all safety and security requirements during the manufacturing setup process.

An official from the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) clarified that this initiative is a pilot project operating under a sandbox initiative.

Sangay Tenzin, the director of Bhutan Nutraceuticals, said that the company is in the process of establishing a memorandum of understanding with experts from Thailand to further develop cannabis for medicinal purposes.

He noted that setting up the manufacturing facility will take some time and added, “We are in discussions with potential importers from Europe and certain Asian countries.”

Owned by Bhutan Nutraceutical, a private company, this venture has received Cabinet’s approval for research and development of cannabis products.

During a recent question-and-answer session in the National Assembly, member of parliament (MP), Norbu Wangzom from Jomotshangkha-Martshala constituency, raised concerns regarding reports circulating on social media and in newspapers.

These reports suggested that the council of ministers had authorised a private company to cultivate marijuana for research purposes, she said.

The MP also questioned the possibility of legalising the sale of marijuana.

She highlighted the historical context of cannabis cultivation in the region, noting that it was a source of income for many families until an Act was enacted, leading to fines for offenders.

She expressed concern that, due to the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances, and Substance Abuse Act of Bhutan 2015, many people from her village are now in prison.

The MP also said that in Thimphu, affluent individuals continue to purchase and using cannabis products for Nu 2,000 per injection.

In response, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that cannabis contains two types of drugs: CDB and THC, with THC having strong psychoactive effects, causing a person to become ‘high’.

Lyonchhen added that the government had approved and legalised cannabis for research and medicinal purposes, in accordance with the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances, and Substance Abuse Act of Bhutan 2015.

Lyonchhen said  that the products derived from cannabis, such as CBD oil and injections, can be used as medicines, with the THC content limited to less than 0.3 percent. Lyonchhen described these products as powerful medicines capable of treating diseases that may not respond to other treatments.

However, Lyonchhen said that there is no possibility of legalising cannabis for sale.