As a permanent farang in Thailand, it is not easy to sit back and watch the Thai election process unfold without comment. The parties, candidates, personalities, political games, contradictions, hypocrisy, and drama rise to the level of telenovela entertainment. Who will come out on top? Will the good guys win? Do good guys even exist? In the eleventh hour will we witness dastardly acts of trickery? Who gave that guy advice to do those silly poses on his placards? Is there any black hair dye left in Thailand? This is thrilling stuff that I want to talk about! But I won’t (here). It’s just too complicated and frustrating. Everything I ever think I know about Thai politics always gets turned on its head. Time after time I am left heartbroken and confused, scratching my head watching as the process unfolds. Truth be told, I don’t even know who to root for. When I find someone speaking reasonably, that person then says something or allies themselves with someone so completely base and stupid that I once more find myself heartbroken and confused.
This leads us to cannabis—a matter close to our collective hearts. Discussion of cannabis amongst the parties is depressing. I will not summarize the positions of the parties here, but in general there seems to be a disconnect between their general political leanings and their positions on cannabis. I am sure that the vast majority of people who read this article will agree that cannabis should be kept legal. But I doubt we will come to a consensus on the best way to keep it legal or who is the best candidate to champion cannabis in our community. Part of this is because of the gap between each party’s cannabis position and reality. Indeed, the most anti-cannabis parties seem to rely heavily on fantasy, old wives’ tales, and arguments void of data. But there is also a disconnect in our own community. Don’t get me wrong, I love being part of Thailand’s cannabis community and I am 100% dedicated to it. But we, like the politicians, are also guilty of our hypocrisy, greed, and selfishness. At times we have come together and demonstrated our potential when united. Other times we have undercut each other with smiles and pretty words in public and unscrupulous actions behind the scenes, sometimes not so far behind the scenes.
Chowkan “Kitty” Chopaka has had a strong and consistent voice in our community. Her recent advocacy has specifically called out the illegal smuggling of cannabis as a leading factor strengthening anti-cannabis positions in Thailand. In a Facebook post today (May 11, 2023) she poses the following rhetorical questions:
“What is the point of legalisation in the country of Thailand when it’s not even Thai grown cannabis in the market?
What is the point of legalisation in the country where cannabis is integrated its cultures, traditions and history when at in the end greedy international corporation can just come in and drown our tradition with marketing promoting consumption and not following the rules?
What is the point of legalisation to promote Thai Cannabis industry growth when most businesses are not even own by Thais?
What is the point of legalisation to bringing more tourist, investment or capital into the country when it all just goes straight back out?
What is the point of legalisation in Thailand, when the Thai people don’t actually benefit?”
We agree with Khun Kitty. We all know, and we have all been saying from the beginning, that legalization must be about sustainability of the culture in Thailand and at the heart of such sustainability is the Thainess of the cannabis and that culture.
Almost all of us in the community have derided imports, but many have continued sourcing imports. Behind closed doors the avenues and major personalities of importing are discussed with disgust—but often a voice will defend imports as a necessary economic evil. It is not. The quality of locally Thai cannabis is better than ever. The cannabis I have reviewed in 2023 has far surpassed where we were in 2022. It is world class. The number of excellent growers in our own back yard is increasing exponentially. Imports may sometimes be cheaper, but not significantly cheaper. What is significant is the inferiority of cheap imports versus high quality Thai cannabis. We joke that the smugglers are unfamiliar with the sources or quality of the weed they illegally bring in. But we watch that dubious weed cross the border. Our hypocrisy is on display next to those imports.
Khun Kitty further advocates that we should support Thai grown cannabis and Thai owned cannabis businesses but that the political fight can only be carried out by Thais who “have the voice and the rights to make legal changes here, to vote here, to legally sign petition and to legally push for law changes here.” We once more agree. Despite the frustrations I raised above regarding the Thai political process, it is nonetheless a Thai process and I am not Thai. The best I can do from a political point of view is to support the Thai members of my family who have the right to vote and are directly impacted on a political, emotional, and historical basis from changes in government. The best we can do from a cannabis community point of view is to support our Thai members. We are not against foreigners working in cannabis, but they must be compliant with the law. We are not against foreigners investing in and operating Thai cannabis companies, but those too must be compliant with the law and have legitimate Thai partners. Lastly, we are also cognizant of the fact that many cannabis smugglers are Thai nationals. Thai smugglers are no more legitimate than their contraband weed, they are not friends of the community. These smugglers cause us, the Thai cannabis community, pain.
Even if we are apolitical there is still much we can do to support our Thai cannabis community. HighThailand has worked with the Phuket Cannabis Association and is now working with Prempavee Ganja Farms on two cups, the Phuket Cannabis Cup and the Thailand Ganja Cup respectively, both with the goal of helping to establish standards of quality and safety for cannabis in Thailand. The Phuket Cannabis Association is actively building a community, reaching out to hundreds of stakeholders, and selflessly advocating responsible growth here in Thailand—they have shown true leadership. Prempavee Ganja Parms and the Thailand Ganja Cup are focusing on outdoor, traditional, naturally grown cannabis with a focus on showcasing Thai and regional cannabis strains while aiming to set quality and safety standards. Setting safety standards is critical for establishing trust between our growers and cannabis consumers. Highlighting and celebrating native cannabis strains brings the Thai cannabis community and its history, culture, and traditions back together. It not only strengthens a key purpose for legalizing cannabis, but it also helps educate on a sustainable method of growing cannabis, and showcases those strains which are genetically predisposed to withstand the environment. This is all critical for establishing an industry which can produce safe, high quality and affordable cannabis which satisfies the consumer and puts food on the grower’s table.
There is still room for those foreigners who love cannabis and its community here in Thailand. But they must come to support and build; not illegally import, capitalize, and move their cash abroad. HighThailand is here to stay—we have no value without a strong, sustainable, Thai cannabis culture and community. Our focus is building and supporting that community so that we all can thrive. We will take a back seat politically—we don’t really have a choice and we are not smart enough to figure out the system. But we hope that ridiculous political posturing on cannabis will give way to reason and common sense after the election. Our community needs to focus on honest discussions, on building a sustainable and ethical Thai cannabis community. We cannot afford to both fight opponents of cannabis and those who purely wish to exploit the cannabis community for their own selfish and greedy goals. We have previously called on Phuket Cannabis Association and other responsible organizations through the Kingdom, such as HighTable, to meet, discuss, and set standards, ethics, and behavior of our community. This is becoming more and more of a necessity rather than a luxury. We must all build our house together or else we will all be lying on the streets alone while the smugglers keep importing their California boof.