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Shining a Light on the Thailand Cannabis Community

Thailand hasn’t always prohibited cannabis; it’s part of the culture.

Ganja plants were often grown by the side of the home and used in Thai traditional medicine and Thai massage. Some grandparents still tend to grow a few Ganja plants, and occasionally throw a few leaves into their Tom Yom (traditional Thai soup).

U.S. illegal market fuelled Thai Stick exports. These were fueled by U.S. troops stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. The plant was not subject to any moral or legal taboo at the time in Thailand.

Then, during the 1980s, the United States’ War on Drugs pushed Thai legislators to change the law, burdening consumers and OGs (original ganjapreneurs) with the threat of severe penalties for cannabis smuggling, sales, production and consumption.

In the recent years, some positive developments have occurred in the Kingdom. However, its emerging legal cannabis market is still in its beginning stages, characterized by confusing legislation, empty promises and false reporting about what’s allowed.

Yet, Thailand still has a cannabis community.

Chopaka

Chopaka

Kitty Chopaka is a tireless cannabis advocate and has opened Chopaka in Bangkok, Thailand. Chopaka sells terpene-infused chewables. She’s one of the most knowledgeable people regarding Thailand’s legal cannabis status and works hard to educate those interested in learning the truth about the plant.

“The new market is interesting. Because we’re in Asia, many people are curious but don’t want to get high. They still want to experience it, and the terpene gummies are exactly what they needed,” Kitty explained. “These gummies give a light effect leading up to a high, so they’re not so scared to try it.”

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Chopaka

While there’s no weed involved, these sweet treats offer something unique to satisfy those new to cannabis and complement the consumption experience for long-time consumers.

“Lots of lady customers, surprisingly, come into the shop by themselves or with their girlfriends,” she said. “Some are hidden users; others are just looking to try it for the first time. They’re curious about terpenes and how they’re related to cannabis, especially after seeing the giant neon cannabis sign in the front window!”

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Chopaka

Chopaka does not use illegal cannabis-derived terps. Instead, he uses artificial terpenes in order to make gummies with the same taste and aroma as popular strains of cannabis.

“Natural terpenes are challenging to use in the food industry. If we use them, they’re not stable,” Chopaka explained. “The shelf life is cut in half; they don’t hold up to the heat, and the taste and smell fluctuate. And in a massive market where weed is accessible for $300 a kilo, it doesn’t make sense to sell cannabis or cannabis products at the high price natural terpene products demand.”

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Chopaka

Kitty started the business in September 2021. She has refined her recipe, obtained FDA approval and licensed the facility. Within a few months, she opened her shop, and over the last four or five months, she has moved 200 kilograms shy of a ton of terpene-infused gummies, which has made her an inspirational success in Thailand’s cannabis community.

“This is but the beginning of cannabis in Thailand. Don’t forget, the U.S. has gone through this, and we’re going through it in our own way,” Chopaka said. “We’re doing similar things with legalization and are working with what’s allowed due to the regulatory limitations. But as soon as progress is made, all of the other guys within this community will have some interesting innovations ready to release.”

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Courtesy OG Papers

OG Papers

Krit Choo was a Thai cannabis user and noticed that rolling papers were not commercially available in Thailand. They were sold only in large corporations, but in supermarkets. He set out to fix that problem by creating OG Papers.

“I thought I could create a paper that’s comfortable to use and has more appealing packaging than what was available on the market at the time,” he explained. “So I started conducting research and made the first version of my papers.”

While the papers are made now from 100% hemp, his original paper was made using wood pulp. OG Papers made the change to hemp paper in 2020. It has improved the experience of smoking.

Krit had been working alone for two years on OG Papers before Pim Pirom, who noticed the potential improvement in the brand and wanted to become a part of it, asked Pirom to join him. The company was rebranded Siam-style in 2021.

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Courtesy OG Papers

The operation is entirely legal, and while these papers are obviously for cannabis consumers, there’s no law in Thailand prohibiting rolling papers.

“The law doesn’t impact our operations,” Pim explained. “Because we know deep down that everyone is smoking weed already, and the papers are normally used for weed, not tobacco. Our papers are used for cannabis consumption by most people. But the regulations don’t make it difficult for us to continue making and distributing our products because we don’t say they’re for weed.”

OG Papers started operations just as Thailand was experiencing legislative change. While recreational cannabis remains prohibited, fear is dissipating in the Kingdom’s cannabis community as interest in the plant flowers.

“It’s more popular than in the past,” Krit said. “Now, people can talk about weed in public without as much fear as before. In the past, it was more taboo.”

“I can see the difference in the news and regulations, but in everyday life, it doesn’t affect us at all,” Pim added. “Big brands are coming into the market, but this doesn’t change our operations. The legislative changes are more for the corporate levels than the small businesses.”

Besides changes at the consumer level, small businesses are connecting and collaborating with one another as the Kingdom’s legislative changes tend to lean more towards the large, corporate operations.

“Many small businesses are now coming together in the cannabis community,” Pim said. “More events are drawing them out than ever before, attracting small businesses that come out to share.”

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Bloom

Bloom

Bloom was conceived to solve one of the more significant issues in Thailand’s cannabis community: a portal to purchase quality, legal cannabis products. The Kingdom’s first “green rush” began in mid-2021, but most of the products were low-quality and gimmicky with poor branding.

“When we first started Bloom, it was even hard for us to find quality products to put on the website,” said John Williams, one of Bloom’s co-founders. “Quality companies were also having difficulty reaching the right audience.”

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Bloom

It developed its own brand of cannabis products, and established relationships with trusted vendors. The company provides a platform for qualified vendors and serves the community by providing quality products, education, and answering any questions at its three- to four monthly events.

“Bloom has been fortunate to have opportunities that align with Thailand’s health community,” explained Williams. “We participate in community markets, health-conscious events, concerts, and this week, we’re running a Q&A panel and workshop about women in cannabis.”

Thailand’s cannabis laws constantly evolve, but the rules are progressing towards full legalization over the last few years. There are 125 Thai cannabis products available that can easily be manufactured in Thailand. The main issue is the FDA’s regulations for packaged items.

“Any store can buy cannabis leaves from a legal source and cook cannabis foods without a license,” Williams explained. “A series of new laws have been approved to allow THC in foods, too, which comes fully into effect around June. However, it must be under 0.2% total THC content.”

Bloom, a Thai company that is just starting to operate in Thailand must be aware of Thailand’s laws. The company is able to stay ahead of legislative developments because it has established strong relationships with policymakers.

Bloom also collaborates with other members of Thailand’s cannabis industry, including Golden Triangle Group, an industry leader for growth and extraction. The lead grower of this operation, Jamie Carrion, bred a nine-time Cannabis Cup-winning CBD strain, Cannatonic, into Thailand’s landrace strains to create the CBD-rich “Raksa” strain.

Additionally, the company aims to establish partnerships with important industry figures, including politicians, marijuana influencers as well doctors and clinics.

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Nudkinpuk Festival

Nudkinpuk Festival

The word “Nudkinpuk” is a southern Thai language pronounced “Nud Kin Puk.” “Nud” translates to skilled; “Kin” means to eat; and “Puk” means vegetable. This trio of words may be combined to denote a group that is experts in eating vegetables.

“It started with my friend and co-founder, Beer,” explained Nuttawat Attasawat (Nut), one of Nudkinpuk’s co-founders. “We started by making a bong-cleaning product called ‘Blue Magic.’ We saw the separation in Thailand’s cannabis industry, an ongoing battle between high-quality and compressed marijuana.”

The idea behind the event was to clear the stress and problems within the cannabis community participating in the “Green Party House” in the Lat Phrao area. The event grew as a result of friendships being made between old and young generations.

“I thought about creating an atmosphere where cannabis lovers could celebrate and party together,” said Nut. “Breaking the walls from within the cannabis community was when the Nudkinpuk festival started gaining traction.”

First event took place on Chao Phraya’s cruise ship. It was an opportunity to bring together members of the cannabis community, and encourage them to travel together on a cruise. Organizing more events has been difficult due to the taboo surrounding cannabis.

“The second Nudkinpuk was to take place near a forest’s edge,” Nut said. “However, between the COVID-19 situation and the fact that the Nudkinpuk festival is a marijuana-centered event, the property canceled two weeks before the event!”

As Thailand’s budding cannabis consumer market materializes, its cannabis community continues to push for full legalization. For now, these business operators must adhere to the Kingdom’s restrictions and societal prejudices while maintaining a watchful eye on the country’s evolving legislation.

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Nudkinpuk Festival

The festival was rescheduled, but permission wasn’t granted when Beer went to see a new location. Instead they decided to focus on camping in nature and not the bands.

“On the concert side, we selected bands that talk about cannabis with love, such as Srirajah Rockers, JUU4E, Pae Arak, Swisawaard, Jahdub Stido and Srirajah Sound System,” Nut explained. “We also include guest speakers at the event, allowing festival-goers to hear inspiration from people who use cannabis to drive their lives. Some speakers include Ko Dam Koh Tao, Guide Highland, Oof Green Party and Beer Sukhumweed Industries.”

More than 20 brands participated in these events as well most notably Bong Party, Nippan Nirvana, Blue Magic Something Else, Highland, Thailand Green Party, Channel Weed Thailand, Treekings OG, Green Mile, New Atlantis, Pisit Thai & China Tradition Clinic, Squidroll, OCB, OG Rolling Papers, Releaf Mint, King Kangaroo Kush, Mr. Herbman and others.

Nudkinpuk had to face some legal obstacles. Most of this is due to the taboo ban the Kingdom promotes.

“With the legal restrictions unclear, many people aren’t open to cannabis in Thailand yet,” explained Nut. “But the event isn’t directly affected because rather than focusing on cannabis literally, we use the symbolism of vegetables to represent marijuana. True marijuana lovers understand that the focus of this festival is to eat vegetables together.”

Like every active member of Thailand’s cannabis community, Nut and Beer would like to see the government become more open to hearing citizens’ opinions about the benefits of cannabis. The benefits of cannabis for medicine and local economies, as well as recreational use, outweigh any prejudices from an older generation who banned it in Thailand.

The unique Thai community of ganjapreneurs is growing as more legalized cannabis becomes available.

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