A conceptual image of Thailands emerging medical marijuana industry. Photo: Facebook

SUPHANBURI – Thailand’s government is treating for free thousands of patients suffering cancer and other illnesses with an until recently illegal brew of marijuana boiled in coconut oil, a concoction created by Daycha Siripatra who says a mind-reading Buddhist monk helped tweak its recipe.

Daycha also teaches the public how to make cannabis oil themselves, which is as easy as cooking soup on a kitchen stove.

An agricultural expert, Daycha is now government-licensed to make, prescribe, and distribute his now popular Daycha Oil to the public for common or serious ills. It wasn’t easy to get licensed. In 2019, Thailand legalized medical cannabis, but not recreational or unlicensed use.

Almost two years ago, Daycha was nearly imprisoned. Police, military and anti-narcotic officials raided his makeshift laboratory in April 2019, seized about 200 marijuana plants and extracts, and threatened to jail him.

Supporters, patients, local media, medical experts and others voiced outrage. To avoid caging an altruist who appeared to help more than 8,000 cancer patients, a compromise was arranged.

The Office of Narcotics Control Board returned his marijuana plants and extracts. The Health Ministry quickly awarded him rare licenses to continue his work.

Today, among 16 approved medicines containing cannabis, the government’s Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) uses Mr. Daycha’s “formula” for its DTAM Oil brand.

Daycha Siripatra, founder of the Khaokwan Foundation in Suphan Buri province, Thailand. Photo: AFP Forum via Bangkok Post/Apichart Jinakul

“I gave them [the formula] for free because my patients were too many.

“From us, about 20,000” patients currently receive Daycha Oil for free, he said. “From the government, more than 100,000” people receive DTAM Oil for free through dozens of hospitals and clinics.

His interest began 10 years ago when he worried about contracting cancer after several relatives died from the disease even with chemotherapy.

He searched online for treatments and illegally experimented with a formula publicized by Canadian cannabis activist Rick Simpson.

Simpson suggested naphtha, a solvent, to extract oil from marijuana. To test the oil, Daycha secretly began treating two terminal cancer patients.

“Unlike many other cannabis oils, Rick Simpson Oil is high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana,” WebMD.com reported.

The results appeared too intoxicating for Thais, though.

“The two patients were drunk and could not do anything,” Daycha said laughing in an interview. “Our grade of marijuana is too strong, compared to Canada’s. The patients refused to continue.”

He sought local advice. Asians have used cannabis in traditional medicine for hundreds of years.

“So I went to a Buddhist monk. You are surprised why I went to the monk? Because I used to be a monk before.”

Daycha, 72, was a monk for “about four months” when he was 13, a tradition followed by most Thai males at sometime during their life. He believed an enlightened monk could read people’s minds.

“I tested monks by asking the question in my mind. Then I said, ‘If you know what is the question, and can answer correctly, you maybe have mind power’.”

Phra Lad Yom, a monk who seemed to perceive Daycha’s thoughts, told him cannabis oil was good for cancer patients if diluted.

“He said, ‘Dilute with cold press coconut oil. That’s very good. Mixed together. Very diluted.’

“So I diluted it for many percentages. The monk said, ‘This one is good, three percent is best’.”

A Thai man sniffs marijuana plants at the Cannabis Expo in Buriram province, Thailand, April 19, 2019. Photo: Facebook

The monk suggested patients consume it before going to bed, because deep sleep is required for the medical affect. Daycha’s cannabis oil includes varying levels of THC and other cannabinols.

“The percentage [of cannabis] is not fixed. We want three, but we can fluctuate, one to five.

“We care about your sleep quality. If you take one drop and it’s not good, take two drops, three drops, until it’s good.”

Unlike Simpson’s recipe, diluted oil allows patients to easily adjust how many drops they should consume for deep sleep.

Rick Simpson Oil is “too concentrated. If one drop is not enough, two drops are too much.

“If too much, you become drunk. It’s no use. If too low, it’s not enough,” Daycha said.

Cannabis oil does not cure cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or other non-communicable diseases (NCD), Daycha said.

“You must use your body to treat these kinds of NCD. Your body can do this task when you have deep sleep,” longer than 90 minutes a night.

“Marijuana oil can make you have very good sleep. You can test by this machine,” he said, indicating a wristband Fitbit sleep tracker.

“If you can have deep sleep without marijuana, it’s OK. Your deep sleep is the key to make your body to cure any kind of NCD.”

He uses cannabis oil every night to improve his health.

Daycha heads his Khao Kwan Foundation here in Suphanburi, 62 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Bangkok. He currently teaches the public to make their own cannabis oil during two-day workshops for about $80.

His recipe is simple:

Chop female marijuana buds and flowers into fine pieces, but not powder. Mix with coconut oil. Boil.

“Not more than one hour. We must keep the temperature not over 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit), not lower than 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit). One hundred and twenty degrees (248 degrees Fahrenheit) is best.

“I am training them to help themselves in health, using the cannabis or marijuana for medicine, not for recreation, because the law in Thailand does not allow for recreation.”

A government-run medical marijuana farm in Thailand. Image: Facebook

At a recent workshop, Daycha’s slide show included charts comparing percentages of THC and other cannabinols in marijuana leaves, buds, flowers and kief.

One slide showed a painting of Hinduism’s Lord Shiva blissfully smoking hashish in a traditional vertical chillum pipe.

At a recent public exhibition in Bangkok, Health Ministry officials distributed DTAM Oil for free to Thais who said they suffered insomnia, stress, cancer and other ailments.

“Patients tended to have their quality of life improved, especially in cancer and neuropathic-pain patients,” said Dr. Pakakrong Kwankao, head of Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital’s Empirical Evidence Center.

International tourists are next.

After becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize medical marijuana, Thailand wants to soon treat international tourists with cannabis in health spas using traditional recipes mixing herbs with weed.

Neighboring nations are far behind with harsh anti-cannabis laws enforced across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and to a lesser extent, Laos.

Officials in all those countries are comparatively timid about marijuana’s medical potential compared to enthusiastic Thailand.

“The cannabis-related medical products and services, now undergoing development along with other Thai herbs, could further promote the health and wellness tourism sector in Thailand, making the country one of the key global destinations for health tourism,” the Government Public Relations Department announced on December 15.

Thailand’s increasingly liberal approach to marijuana includes cashing in on the medical sector and related businesses while keeping recreational use illegal.

Fear of foreigners and multinational corporations dominating the market has forced Bangkok to speed development of cannabis research labs, university courses, extraction and production facilities, plantations, and retail and licensing requirements, plus local and international laws and agreements.

Recreational marijuana use is still banned in Thailand. Image: Facebook

Importing marijuana is restricted. But licensed medical and research officials are allowed to buy seeds from abroad to improve and diversify yields.

“Thai Sticks” and other local marijuana is world-renown for their steep euphoria. But some patients want only the plant’s medical benefits without being mentally interrupted.

Foreign investors are also set to soon benefit. But Thais must remain majority share-holders, according to Wirot Poonsuwan, a Bangkok-based lawyer.

“Foreigners will be allowed to get involved, as long as they hold shares not exceeding one-third in a company incorporated under local law,” Wirot wrote in a December report about Thailand’s private medical cannabis production.

“International travelers are the most relaxed category and are always eligible to apply for import and export licenses to bring in and take out cannabis medicine to treat their illnesses,” he said.

It was unclear how rapidly permission would be granted.

The Health Ministry and related facilities have been focusing on Covid-19 instead of their earlier plans to prioritize cannabis liberalization after legalizing medical use in 2019.

As a result, thousands of Thai patients are waiting to be treated with marijuana for common and serious illnesses while there is not enough locally grown and processed medical-grade cannabis.

To meet those needs, traditional folk healers are being given licenses to grow, produce, prescribe and sell cannabis for any sickness they believe it will relieve.

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based American foreign correspondent reporting from Asia since 1978 and author of a new nonfiction book, “Rituals. Killers. Wars. & Sex. — Tibet, India, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka & New York”.  Excerpts are available at https://asia-correspondent.tumblr.com