A few weeks ago, a grower was introduced to me through a common contact. His flowers were beautiful, both from an aesthetic and consumption point of view. I was so impressed by this grower that I brought him up in conversation with Thai Top Shelf of Chiang Mai. Thai Top Shelf found this grower’s flowers at a dispensary in Bangkok and reported back to me that quality of the flowers was fine, not excellent, decent but not mind blowing, neither spectacular nor aesthetically pleasing. I was shocked by this and sent him photos of my sample. His response, “yeah, this nug in your photo looks a lot better than the one I tried.” After this confirmation I went to the same dispensary, identified the bud and smoked a gram. The bud looked far different from the one I had at home, tasted and smelled generic and had a less enjoyable high (but still acceptable).
I discussed this experience with a few master growers, their responses were generally the same: “What was the environment where the buds had been displayed and stored like?” The answer, the buds were displayed in mass in a clear glass jar, exposed to the sun, kept out during non-business hours with the air conditioner off. These buds were baking in the hot Bangkok sun with no humidity or temperature control. The buds were cooked and damaged.
Ever since we at HighThailand shifted our focus to the source of cannabis, the growers, we spent less time discussing dispensaries and instead have honed in on growers and their flowers. We have tried to introduce growers to our readers while at the same giving honest opinions and reviews of their flowers. But we (and to be fair this may be my fault in particular) have neglected to discuss those middlemen, those whole sellers and dispensaries, who stand between the grower and the cannabis consumer. To this end, we exchanged thoughts on the above with master growers Canis Major, Yoda Can Grow and Jai of Fire Farms to get their views of what happens to the buds between their hands and the consumer’s.
“We work with a small number of dispensaries that ask for our guidance. We always recommend they store our flowers in a wine cabinet at around 18C for short time storage, and as low as 13C for proper long curing. The display flowers that sit in ambient rooms should never be sold but rather given as free samples to customers or members of staff. To help protect the flowers, we also sell UV glass containers that ensure shelf life at wholesale prices to dispensaries.”
“We are a small farm which operates just like the old pre-legalization days. We usually provide our flowers only to long time old customers. Those guys that already know what they are doing. Before we accept new customers, we secretly visit their stores and check to ensure each store is a good place to present our lovely flowers. Think about letting someone adopt your pets, this is the feeling we have when we turn over our flowers to a dispensary.”
“Our plants are born and raised in temperature controlled room. We still consider them live plants after they are harvested. Our challenge and a critical step is to prolong the freshness of the harvested plants. We always keep them under 16C during the drying and once in the cure/trim room we keep the room precisely at 19C with 55% humidity for the trimming process. We cure the plant at 19~20C for one month to ensure the microbes continue their sugar break down process and that the moisture content is where we want it be. Before we ship our buds, they are stored in tight nitrogen filled containers to prevent further curing and to get rid of the oxygen that may degrade the products. Upon delivery, we send them in a foam box with cool gel by instant motorbike-delivery within Bangkok and the suburbs. With long distance journeys, we use a chilled transportation service that manages to keep the temperature between 5-8C at all time until our flowers reach the final destination. Ideally, we would ship them at around 13C, but we will take the 8C option over 35-40C heat given what is available.”
“We put a lot of work into our buds, but only go into full detail on storage with shops that are willing to ask and take actions. We never want to interfere with what other people are doing successfully on their end. However, when and if a dispensary works directly with us they know they must have everything set up upon arrival of our flowers. Dispensaries such as High-In dispensary Phangan, Bobby Exotics, Thai Top Shelf in Chiangmai, are some of the shops that follow strict storage guidelines. We found that the buds at these shops can last very long, fully fresh even after 6 months of storage.”
“Unfortunately, many dispensaries leave their flower out in direct sunlight, fully exposed without lids or jars. They don’t have air-conditioned facilities to keep their buds at a good temperature. Their budtenders touch the buds without gloves. I can go on forever with sad stories I’ve encountered.”
“There is a vast management chain for Cannabis plants from seeds, vegetative, flowering, drying, curing and delivery. We consider them alive at every stage, and we strive to take good care and let them live their best lives at every moment. Despite the flooding of cannabis flowers after legalization, nothing changed on our end. We focus on quality above all else. When your readers encounter good weed, we hope they see understand the entire process and respect the entire experience, similar to enjoying a good meal. The Japanese says ‘itadakimasu’ at the beginning of every meal! While it’s often translated before meals as something similar to the French, ‘bon appétit!’, itadakimasu actually is the polite and humble form of the verb “to receive”, so in a literal sense, it means, ‘I humbly receive’”.
Yoda Can Grow:
“It is sad that we are only a small part of the cannabis community who cares about the quality of the product. I think that in about 95-97% of the market in Thailand, the customer does not have any idea about quality. They view weed more like beer, not like wine.” A commodity to use and enjoy to get high or for its specific purposes, but not necessarily to savor and appreciate.
“I think it’s more about the consumer part than the dispensaries which allow for poor storage in shops. The mass market, the tourists, they don’t care about the storage and curing. They don’t know what is good weed and how to keep it well stored. The industry is very young. If most customers don’t care about curing and storage then the dispensaries don’t have to put in more effort to address this. Proper storage, quality weed, is not a selling point, the dispensaries see no benefit from that, so why should they put in that effort?”
“High quality cannabis is more like a niche market, like wine, or like durian. Most Thais can’t afford to consume durian, but they understand good durian. The ones who can afford and spend money on it are tourists who don’t know anything about what makes a good durian. The same applies to weed. Tourists who come here do not come from countries where cannabis is legal—they aren’t coming with education. These tourists are just happy to consume any quality of weed and drop their money on it.”
“But users like you and me, and growers who care about the quality, make up maybe 1% of the total market. It’s very small but hopefully can keep growing. Supply and demand are a challenge and the market is still very small. Tourists who come to Thailand expect cheap things, cheap food, and cheap hotels—they may pay THB 800 for a gram of weed, but they won’t buy that much. That market is limited. We have a lot of good growers who can supply that market.”
“I want to focus more on the mass market away from that high end. Lower income people, making 400 THB per day. That market is very, very big. If we can move this way and capture that market, which still spends 100 THB a day right now satisfying their beer addiction, then we will be 20 million users.” The market is just not ready to focus and prioritize storage.
Jai of Fire Farms
“As a grower I want to be more particular and focus on my flowers, but a dispensary wants to make money and focuses on the bottom line, which may be without thinking about the quality of the flowers. Many dispensary owners already think buds are expensive—they don’t want to put the extra effort into storage, and a proper environment. This is not the dispensaries trying to be destructive but a result of their own ignorance and lack of education. Dispensary staff and budtenders are hired without education and dispensaries throw them in without knowing how to take care of cannabis. Many budtenders just know the tip of the iceberg for sales. They don’t know what is necessary to keep the bud smelling and smoking the way they should.”
“Most consumer’s do not have proper cannabis education either. Thailand is the first Asian country to make cannabis legal. But everyone has been beat in their heads that cannabis is bad since the war on drugs. Most consumer never saw weed before legalization and don’t know what to expect. People don’t know how much work goes into the flowers and they end up trusting the budtender, someone they don’t know, who may lack the basic understanding as well. When both the consumer and budtender are uneducated, price becomes the focus. Every dispensary claims ‘we sell the best, we have the fire,’ even though they don’t. What keeps them from lying about their weed? Nothing. When a consumer comes into a dispensary they have the best wishes and hopes for a product. If their flower is moldy, looks bad, tastes bad, been around for too long, the consumer will be disappointed and upset, and the dispensary and the grower have a bad name.”
“In the past we have tried to educate dispensaries and have even offered wine coolers for storage. But the expense is something that many dispensaries are not willing to take on. Many dispensaries are now taking on smaller quantities from growers after seeing large amount turn. If you do not store cannabis properly here, the sun, the heat, and the humidity of Thailand is really the worst environment for cannabis, and everything will cook and degrade. The bud was originally a live living creature, a plant, if you put these plants which are perfectly groomed, in heat and moisture it starts to lose quality. They start to smell the same because the heat is breaking down the cannabinoids and terps. What is left is just a wet moist cola. The plant is just broken down to its basic elements by the heat and moisture. A bud which is perfectly cured is basically a big sponge absorbing everything around it. That’s why all buds stored together and improperly take on the same smell. If I kept my bud and someone else’s bud in a closet with funky clothes for a couple days, both buds will end up smelling like funky clothes.”
“The same applies to transportation, to growers and middlemen who are moving buds around. Even before it gets to the dispensary, if it’s bouncing around in the trunk of a car or in a backpack, if it’s still wet, it starts degrading. Too much movement is also bad. If you start moving it around too much in a trunk or a backpack it starts losing the trichome heads. It is in that trichome head (the mushroom looking heads)—where the grower is trying to achieve the best maturity to give the consumer the high that they are looking for. Improper transportation can destroy this before it even reaches the dispensary.”
“I wish I could educate everyone and control the dispensaries, but I can’t afford to say no to selling weed. There’s a million other people growing and trying to sell their buds here. I can’t afford to tell people that they aren’t storing correctly and I won’t sell to them. I can’t say to a dispensary ‘with the way you store my weed, it won’t be the best after a week’. Some of these dispensaries don’t even keep the fans and aircon on when customers aren’t in their shops. Sometimes I go into these places, and I look at the conditions, and I think to myself, ‘How can you go to sleep at night selling people moldy ass weed?’”
HighThailand has spent the better part of the last year documenting the incredible strides Thailand has taken in cannabis culture since legalization. Indeed, we have seen huge improvements in the quality of cannabis available here and the abilities of our very talented growers. We have and continue to advocate for uniform growing standards and regulations to protect consumers and help the market mature. We have seen that growers and other cannabis stakeholders are now organizing throughout Thailand to address the need for such standards. However, we can neither neglect nor ignore the importance of those middlemen who deliver buds to the end consumer. They are in a trusted position guarding someone else’s creation, someone else’s art, before being appreciated by the end consumer. Our community cannot give dispensaries a free pass along the cannabis transport chain. Instead, we must hold them accountable to the same standards and scrutiny we advocate for growers. We should celebrate those dispensaries who curate, understand, and treat their buds like art. Those dispensaries that do not should be exposed as shops for tourists and the temporary ignorant, shops looking for a quick money grab at the expense of a sustainable industry, the weakest link in our chain.