In 2017, ex-policeman Buntoon “Uncle Tuu” Niyamabha, 62, opened a clinic inside Daojai Resort & Spa to treat illnesses with cannabis oil. His clinic has since administered cannabis to over 1,000 people, most of them cancer patients or children suffering from epilepsy. Marijuana is currently a class 5 illegal drug, which mean Uncle Tuu’s practice is illegal—a fact that doesn’t put him off. We spoke to him about why, and met the mother of a nine-year-old girl who’s willing to let an unlicensed physician use cannabis to treat her daughter’s multiple seizure-induced disabilities.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was a policeman for four years, until they decided to make marijuana illegal . I then got into the travel business, organizing inbound and outbound tours. By the time my father-in-law and my younger sister got cancer, I was already studying cannabis oil. I started treating them with it and both got well. Imagine, for example, that you’re trying to kill a single person in a market. Chemo is like throwing a bomb into the market, but marijuana is a sniper—you kill that one person without killing anyone else.
Is what you do legal?
Absolutely not. But it’s so easy to break Thai laws. You’re breaking the law when you don’t use the zebra crossing or pedestrian bridge. People you know are dying and you can help, but you won’t—is that not wrong?
Where did you learn to make cannabis oil?
I did a lot of research online, watching video tutorials. Also, I worked with a doctor from Colorado with brain cancer. Her husband taught me to make the oil. Marijuana in Colorado is so expensive.
What’s the process patients go through at your clinic?
I need to meet the patient and their whole family. I need to know that the patient really exists and that the oil goes to them. Plus, they need to see the clinic’s doctor as well. Because this treatment is still new out here, I sit the family down to make sure everyone is on the same page and agrees to the treatment before I start my process. I then assign a dosage according to the patient’s conditions. I also teach patients how to make the oil themselves. I also help them with sourcing if they can’t do it themselves. I keep in touch with them to track their progress.
How much do you charge?
Only the cost of the marijuana. That’s why it’s really important that I see the patient, otherwise I’m just a drug dealer. If you can find your own marijuana and press it into oil yourself, then you don’t even have to pay me anything.
Are there any side-effects?
Yes, good ones. The oil lowers your blood sugar and blood pressure, and your heart grows stronger and beats faster, like an athlete’s.
Why do you think medical marijuana is still illegal?
To benefit certain groups of people. We spend so much money on imported drugs, like B10 billion—think about how many submarines or how many luxurious watches you could buy! Marijuana shouldn’t be illegal. Back in the day, it was one of our country’s exports. It was a Thai medicine for like 300 years. Look at the murals in Wat Phra Kaew—all the warriors are smoking it, even the monkeys are smoking it.
The mother of a nine-year-old girl who uses the clinic also answered our questions.
How long has your daughter been on this treatment?
Two years. She takes two drops before breakfast and dinner. Her body is not tense anymore, she is very relaxed.
What was your first impression of medical marijuana?
I was shocked and scared at first. I thought, “Can I really trust this?” But I also did some research and learned that if we used just a few drops of it, it worked as a medicine. Just like how ya dong [a medicinal alcohol of lao khao and herbs] can have health benefits, but if you have too much you become drunk and it harms your body. We also learned that Uncle Tuu donates his time, the cannabis oil, diapers and strollers to mothers with children who suffer from multiple disabilities.