Even as people are prosecuted for possession or consumption of cannabis and its derivatives every year, the existence of a private firm in Thimphu that has been producing and selling hemp extracts has raised eyebrows.
The firm is selling hemp extract with a 10 millilitre of the extract from the widely grown plant, packaged in a syringe, for Nu 2,000.
Hemp extracts are obtained from marijuana plants (cannabis sativa). Kuensel learnt that the company has been operating for some time.
It was also learnt that the product was not sold through a dedicated outlet, but delivered to individuals after placing their demand. Marketing of the product is mainly through word-of-mouth.
The firm, on its product cover, claims that the extract is 100 per cent natural, which is naturally extracted from cannabis plants grown in Bhutan.
It also claims that the product is beneficial in treating various health problems, including cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, various pains including headache, inflammation, and insomnia, among others.
Kuensel learnt that the product was widely in use within the country, especially by those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
Generally, medicinal cannabis is prescribed to relieve symptoms of a medical condition, such as epilepsy, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
Cannabis plants contain more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol are chemicals mainly used in medicine.
For medical use, the approved THC level is less than 0.3 per cent. Studies have found that free wild seeds are of lower quality, while the medium quality contains less than 0.3 per cent of THC.
The best quality has zero THC. The wild cannabis species in Bhutan are found to contain more than 0.3 per cent of THC.
The Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2018, classifies cannabis under Schedule I that grades the plant as a narcotic drug, with no medicinal value.
Section 128 of the Act states that a defendant, who cultivates, domesticates or harvests cannabis and its derivatives for the use prohibited or controlled by the Act would be guilty of an offence of illegal cultivation, domestication or harvest of cannabis and its derivatives.
Section 129 grades the offence a felony of the third degree if the defendant cultivates or domesticates equal to or more than two times the number of plants determined in Schedule VII of the Act.
Section 139 of the Act states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances if he or she possesses, imports, exports, stores, sells, purchases, transports, distributes or supplies any substances under Schedules I and II of this Act regardless of the degree of purity or formulation.
However, Section 130 of the Act also states that notwithstanding Section 128, a person or an entity may be permitted to produce or extract fibres or animal feed or such other products for licit purpose as prescribed under rules and regulations.
Both the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) and Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) acknowledged the existence of the company.