• Christopher Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Thailand Goes All-In for Cannabis as Plant Medicine and Commercial Opportunity

Our good friend Shaun Salvaje reported on the Malta-Legalization story on the State of Cannabis News Hour when it broke a week ago, so I’m going to focus on the Thailand story today.

Thailand has become the first Asian nation to legalize cannabis. Medicinal cannabis is already legal there – again, it was the first Asian country to allow this.


THE DEEP DIVE

As with many things related to cannabis and legalization, the road to cannabis freedom in Thailand has been a deliberate, step-by-step process. Analyzing the news, one can see how the pieces of the bigger strategy have fallen into place over several years.


On December 9th, cannabis and hemp were removed from the narcotics code (mostly... again, step-by-step). Hemp was fully removed, and according to an article in Vice, the stems, roots, leaves and sprigs of cannabis plants were removed. Starting next year, everything including buds, flowers and seeds will also be legal.


[So, Thailand has heard Nichole West’s cry of “Deschedule or Bust” and has acted accordingly.]


On an interesting note, cannabis is already built into public healthcare in Thailand, along with other traditional plant medicines. With this new move to legalize, "...village health volunteers will also be urged to inform people that almost all hospitals in Thailand now have cannabis clinics offering alternative medicine," Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.


Just from those two pieces of news – and two FIRSTS – one can tell that Thailand is out in front of its Asian cousins. But a quick search of news stories reveals that there’s even more going on in Thailand to appreciate.


In November, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with RxLeaf World Medica on establishing the International Medical Cannabis Research Center. The latest movement is a part of Thailand's plan to be a world-class cannabis production and development hub. The center aims to be a knowledge hub for genetic research on medical cannabis, bringing together doctors, researchers, experts from Canada, the Netherlands and other countries to conduct cannabis products research and development while at the same time exchanging the medical cannabis knowledge.”


Back in August, Thailand decriminalized kratom, which is native to Southeast Asia. At that time, “thousands of legal cases for the possession or sale of kratom were being dropped, and 121 inmates convicted in such cases were released.”


Decriminalizing both kratom and cannabis are conscious efforts by the government to stimulate economic recovery from COVID (and help make back some of the tourist dollars lost) AND a recognition that the war on these two drugs is wasteful and futile.


"The ministries are testing the water first, but they do realize that if they don’t allow for full access, Thais will know other ways to go about finding it,” said Kitty Chopaka, a local cannabis entrepreneur and advocate.


Way back in 2018, Thailand decriminalized medicinal use, and allowed households to grow up to 6 pants. It allowed some licensed growing, but “…Under an agreement facilitated by hospitals, universities and government officials, cannabis flowers and buds are removed at harvest. They are then either given* to local hospitals to be made into alternative medicine, sent to medical units and facilities at local universities across the country for research, or disposed of completely.”


* This single process shows possible a way forward for all cannabis countries: Using a step-by-step approach, to ensure an illicit market does not erupt from the home-grows, carefully register and monitor home grows, allow a prescribed amount for personal consumption and “tax” them in flower, not cash. When product is seized from the inevitable illicit operators, it can be tested and utilized in healthcare or, depending on its quality, used for compost and regenerative agriculture practices.


THE LOOP BACK

And if we go back a few decades, Old Schoolers will remember Thai Stick. The ultimate high, back in the day – cannabis wrapped around a stem, and rolled in hash oil which would allow more cannabis to stick to it, layer upon layer of cannabis and hash oil.


QUESTION FOR READERS:

Curious what other Dear Readers think about Thai Stick and promoting legacy/local/legendary product?


If you were the Thai cannabis market, would you rebuild that OG brand – Thai Stick – or would you go with the modern approach?


(I know what I would do...)


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Image source: https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/05/13/can-medical-cannabis-in-thailand-balance-profits-and-patients/


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