Thailand is not the first country to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis and hemp for recreational use, but it requires a well-planned approach and preparation to ensure people’s safety.
To commercialize the crops, the seller needs to have the proper training and know-how, to deliver the consumer the real benefit and minimize harm.
Unarin Kitpaiboonthawee, the owner of the biggest greenhouse hemp farm in Southeast Asia, Cannabiz Way, said that she spent 3 years on research, and finally got her license to grow a year ago. She is now in the middle of her first harvest.
“We have to differentiate between Cannabis and Hemp, and between CBD and THC. Today, we look at them all as the same thing. What actually affects mental health, brain functions, and self-control is THC, which needs to be strictly controlled”.
Unarin said she uses an imported strain, as it contains a higher level of Cannabidiol or CBD, and much less Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC than Thai strains. The local hemp strain has been used for making fabrics for decades, while local cannabis, which is widely known as “Thai Stick”, contains too high a level of THC.
Thailand Food and Drug Administration allows Cannabis with a THC content not exceeding 0.2 percent by weight, a level which Unarin said in no way makes people “high”.
She believes that legalizing the crops is the right thing for Thailand. However, the public, especially people who put cannabis in food, drink, or beauty products they sell, needs to be more aware of its contents.
Thailand is ready or not, it is already legalized. “So now it is all about educating the public about what can and cannot be used, and what should and should not be used. So, today people have to know the difference between THC and CBD in hemp and cannabis. Since this is what is happening now, society needs to be educated, and not to be banned (from using it). The ban will force people into the shadows again,” Unarin elaborated
The hemp farmer owner explained that to add these herbs’ medical benefits to the food or drink, there is no need to use the flower. CBD, the beneficial part of cannabis and hemp, can also be found in its leaves, stems, stalks, and roots.
She also sees that in the future, hemp seed oil has great potential to be a very important economic product. Right now, its value remains low, which means most people overlook the seed and focus on the flower instead.
The Cannabis flower, which was only legalized on June 9th, usually contains a high level of THC, and Unarin suggests not just using this part unless recommended and supervised by a medical professional.
Just 7 days after legalization, the Thai Public Health Ministry issued a ministerial regulation to classify Cannabis flowers as a controlled herb, hoping to help ease concerns over their recreational abuse.
Another thing the government needs to look at is pardoning people who had been growing cannabis for medical research before it was legalized. Unarin said it is like an amnesty, indicating what they have been doing so far was not wrong. And hopefully, those who have been doing research on cannabis and hemp use will help educate the public on how to use the crops appropriately.
Another challenge Thailand might face soon is how to regulate cannabis tourism. How will the country distinguish between those who come to Thailand for medical treatment and those who come for the recreational aspect, and should Thailand be clearer about zoning and control of use?
“News spread out that Thailand has legalized marijuana. The reality is that it is not totally regulation-free. What’s happening now is a short period that has not been fully controlled. But there will be more regulations every day”.
By Tulip Naksompop Blauw