Cannabis dispensaries are popping up in Thailand as the country experiences a cannabis gold rush. The kingdom decriminalized cannabis last month. Thai residents can now grow at home and sell paraphernalia from pop-up stalls on the street.
Thailand’s Cannabis Gold Rush
Thailand’s cannabis gold rush is thanks partly to the government removing the substance from a list of banned narcotics. On June 9th, 2022, Thailand legalized cannabis to make it easier for medical patients. Technically, recreational smoking of high-THC cannabis is against the law.
But that hasn’t stopped Thai residents from selling pre-rolls, cannabis-infused drinks, and food, like cannabis-infused sriracha hot sauce. Cannabis-inspired pop-up stalls and booths have overtaken the country. The hashtag #saikiew or “green way of life” has been trending on social media.
Reports from the Southeast Asian country suggest the government is incapable of putting the legalization genie back in the bottle.
Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tried to clarify the laws last week:
“The whole plant is no longer (a) narcotic,” he told reporters, “only the extract – not the flowers, the trees nor the roots” with “under 0.2 percent THC” can be used.
Nevertheless, tens of thousands of small-scale farmers have registered to grow legally. At the same time, many others are testing out their green thumb at an unregistered home farm.
Thailand’s Wild West of Cannabis
Thailand’s cannabis gold rush may be short-lived if the government feels pressure to curb the free-for-all. Others are concerned that the initial rush is hype and that many of these cannabis businesses won’t stay afloat once the dust settles.
However, the biggest threat comes from a corporate takeover. If the Thailand cannabis market remains this liberal and open, it could be worth billions of dollars. Undoubtedly, global pharmaceutical and agriculture conglomerates will move in. By buying thousands of acres of land for cultivation, a corporate takeover could confine the cannabis economy before it has a chance to grow.
Another problem with Thailand’s cannabis gold rush is that high potency THC is still technically illegal. Right now, all cannabis strains indigenous to Thailand are low-THC and high-CBD. And the government only wants high CBD strains in production.
However, demand is high in Thailand for potent cannabis. Right now, Thailand’s appetite for high-THC cannabis is fed by illegal imports from the USA. The mark-up of high potency cannabis also leaves many Thai residents locked out. A gram of premium THC cannabis can go for 700 baht (or nearly $20).
Thailand’s Cannabis Bubble?
While high prices may cause more cannabis farmers to enter the field and bring prices down, some wonder what the result of Thailand’s cannabis gold rush will be. As one Thai cannabis dispensary owner told Al Jazeera,
“Suddenly a ‘druggie’ turns into a business person and a bedroom grower turns into a master grower … anyone who takes a selfie with some weed, the next day their phone won’t stop ringing with people asking for their help to enter the market.”