Our nascent Thai Cannabis Community is building and moving fast. In less than two weeks Thailand hosted the Asia International Hemp Expo in Bangkok and the Thai High Convention in Chiang Mai. Two very important yet very different events.
The Hemp Expo was an enormous sales show. Both Thai and international vendors showed off their wares and services, hoping to gain traction in this quickly emerging market. Cannabis related mass growers, fertilizer hawkers, Chinese paraphernalia producers, consultants of all forms, local dispensaries and floating cannabis importers conversed with each other trying to ultimately figure out how to make a buck. The first day of the convention was particularly exciting with flowers readily available for sale. This was curtailed for the remaining days of the expo, but the symbolism of cannabis freely being discussed, traded and on display in Thailand’s most iconic and important convention center was not lost.
The Hemp Expo, evidenced that cannabis has returned to the status quo in Thailand on a permanent basis. There is no turning back—and Thailand successfully showed the world through the Expo that it can move forward seriously, professionally, and safely with best practices. But there was more to the Expo both beautiful and ugly. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the Expo was the impromptu gathering of cannabis professionals and enthusiasts lighting up on the convention center’s northern stairs. It was there that business conversations became conversations amongst new friends. Where individual users could see they are part of a multitude of likeminded people. But that Expo and those stairs where also the site of the ugliness in our community: the import agents who hover amongst us like stale flatulence in an elevator. Six months in—Thai flower is better than ever—yet California bud is readily available. Import weed is so ingrained in the cannabis business that it found its way into the Expo.
The High Thai Convention, had a completely different vibe. It was smaller, outdoors, and had more of an educational and cultural focus. No doubt there was a commercial aspect to it as well, with admission tickets and both cannabis flowers and other related goods on sale at the convention. But ultimately there were three stars of the convention: (1) the (local) growers and their flowers; (2) the budding culture of cannabis; and (3) the demands of the cannabis community which are beginning to materialize.
We were blown away from the flowers we were smoking this weekend. Dirty Bird from Cannis Major and Frutopium from the Thailand Dank Squad dominated our visit and were the two highlight strains for me. We were lucky enough to spend time with the Thailand Dank Squad and get educated on their indoor and outdoor projects. But we also were impressed by the many other growers and their locally and diversly grown buds—including some great outdoor grown sativas. The flowers on display at the convention were for the most part showcased directly by the growers themselves or their partner dispensaries who gave them full credit for the product. The farms, the growers and their buds were the ultimate focus—and we believe this is the way it should be. HighThailand will make more of an effort to speak directly and showcase growers from now on.
Development of cannabis culture was also clearly evident and alive at the Convention. DJs, glass blowers, big name bands all appeared and performed in one small area. Lectures and discussions were held from various parts of our community. Folks exchanged ideas, laughed, danced, and got to know each other. The Chiang Mai local police, who were always on hand, started the Convention on alert and fully stressed—but concluded the event at ease, chilled, and relaxed without worries. This is our culture—we create art, we have our own discourse, we are peaceful and harmless, we have a wish to build. The Convention highlighted who we are as whole—what our culture is. This was a stepping stone for more to come and more to be developed.
The Convention also was an opportunity for different members of our community to raise their voices and express their concerns for where we are going. Members shared that while we are all thankful and grateful that cannabis use is legal and prevalent, uncertainty still abounds with little clarity on what is next. Another common discussion centered on the fact that cannabis culture, which is celebrated herein and throughout HighThailand, is nonetheless a deep and far reaching concept which is only partially represented in popular media. More must be done to showcase a full spectrum of Thai cannabis culture, with an emphasis on its Thai nature. Lastly, discussion touched on the fact that cannabis is a medicinal herb, and is promoted primarily by government spokespeople for its medicinal benefits, yet we have seen little actual medicinal use or promotion of medicinal use nor have we seen discussion on quality control of the buds sold to the public.
The Expo and the Convention is a tale of two cities. Bangkok’s Expo showed we are serious, business minded, professional and we are here to stay. But it also exposed we have ugly faults, namely our shameful imported cannabis. Chiang Mai’s Convention highlighted the best parts of our community, our excellent farmers, their buds and our community and the culture which build around it. The Convention also acted as a conversation within the community—a conversation which highlighted some of our faults and frustrations. We look forward to continuing the discourse, continuing the expos and conventions, building on our strengths, and eliminating our weaknesses. There is room for everyone at the table through fair competition—that fair competition does not include outside flowers.