Thailand, long one of the harshest countries in the world surrounding drug trafficking, removed cannabis and hemp extracts from its list of Category 5 narcotics on Monday, according to Reuters. The removal of the substances from the banned list is a major step towards promoting medical cannabis investment and development in the Southeast Asian country of nearly 70 million. This is huge progress in a country where possession of a Category 5 drug product carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to 1.5 million baht (about $49,000).

The change in law applies to extracts from cannabis and hemp plants that include CBD, CBD-based products, and other substances with a THC content of less than 0.2% according to the report. “The intention is to allow extracts to be used in medicine, cosmetics and food and support hemp as a cash crop,” said Secretary General of the Thai Food and Drug Administration Tares Krassanairawiwong to reporters on Monday. She noted that both hemp seed and oil would be exempt from the update. The country also legalized medical research on marijuana.

Currently, only hospitals and research centers are able to apply for a license to develop these extracts, of which 334 permits have been issued thus far. Last month, Thailand shipped 10,000 bottles of cannabis oil extract to approved patients, the first time it had done so.

Possessing recreational cannabis remains illegal but is still prevalent throughout the country. People typically receive a fine rather than prison time, but imprisonment is possible.

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