During the 1980s, the U.S. government was able to convince and coerce Thailand to partner with them in a war against marijuana. In 1988 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted eight “motherships” that carried 463,000 pounds of Southeast Asian marijuana bound for American shores. However, in the end, the “victory” was Pyrrhic because Thai drug users replaced cannabis with methamphetamine that is today responsible for 90 percent of that nation’s drug arrests.
While the Thai Cannabis Corporation hopes to include the marijuana that Thailand was once world famous for in their product line, they will only go as rapidly as the law and Thai government will allow. “The mission of the Thai Cannabis Corporation,” said CEO Timothy Luton, “is to provide an excellent return to shareholders by partnering with Thailand’s farmers and scientific researchers to make, at high volumes and affordable prices, cannabis products that are above reproach.”
Under Thailand’s 1934 Marijuana Act, penalties for any amount of the plant could not exceed one year in prison. When criticized by American officials for tolerating cannabis, Thailand leaders were quick to remind them that drug abuse was not part of their culture.
“They tie together. Put the stick. Make it nice. Sell for GI easy. One, two, or five for one dollar,” recalled a Thai smuggler who got his start selling pot to U.S. soldiers. “Whatever place GI go, it started whenever they need.”
Thai Sticks c. 1974. Photo Michael Ferguson
After the United States built military bases in Thailand during the 1960s and stationed tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers there, the marijuana industry exploded and cheap, powerful pot became as readily available as beer.
“With an eighty-cent bottle of gin purchased at the PX,” one Vietnam veteran remembers, “you could trade for a pack of twenty Thai sticks.”
The first Thai marijuana to reach the United States came in the 1960s via the Army Post Office. The difference between Thai marijuana and most Vietnamese and Cambodian cannabis, was the difference between bathtub corn whiskey and single malt scotch. In 1967, one amazed DEA agent to called it “the Cuban cigar of the marijuana world.”
He also assured his voters of their economic advancement, by proposing the sale of each mature marijuana plant to the government for $2,225. Subsequently, a household could earn $13,350 for selling their entire allotment of six plants. Quite an alluring prospect, considering the average Thai salary is reportedly $8,200 per year, nationwide (or 24,000 baht per month).
Officials expect the plants will produce medical marijuana within six months.
Back in September, Anutin alluded, “In the near future, families will be able to plant cannabis trees in their back gardens like any other herb.”
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While Anutin claims that cannabis is not a political issue, he caused a commotion in advance of Thailand’s general election in March, by campaigning for the legalization of household cultivation. He led his middle-sized Bhum Jai Thai (Proud to be Thai) party’s campaign earlier this year during parliamentary elections by promising each household could cultivate six marijuana plants. Incidentally, his Bhum Jai Thai party is now part of the ruling coalition.
“We are in the process of changing laws to allow the medical use of marijuana freely,” said recently-appointed Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, in Bangkok on Wednesday. “We have high confidence that marijuana will be among the major agricultural products for Thai households. We are speeding up the law changes. But there is a process to it.”
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Not a matter of politics?
Maejo University has reportedly developed a marijuana strain it calls “Issara” (independence), which offers 1:1 percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), according to the Asia Times.