For three years, Lek secretly cultivated cannabis plants in the countryside of northeastern Thailand, but strict by authorities despite promises of gradual relaxation of the law. I was afraid to exercise drug penalties.
On June 9, cannabis was virtually criminalized and she finally emerged from the underground weed scene and is legally part of an army of newcomers to Thailand's most hyped market. I became a grower.
"We are in a'vacuum period', so for now anyone can do virtually anything," said Lek34, full name Piyatida Jantra, who prunes about 100 plants in Korat. rice field.
This area is the gateway to Isaan, a region of rice and sugar farmers where staple food prices have plummeted and new cash crops are in desperate need.
Thailand was the first Southeast Asian country to take such liberalization measures and recognizes the medical and economic benefits that plants may have.
This country's journey to become a paradise for cannabis consumers and entrepreneurs is unexpected in a kingdom where successive governments have taken a zero-tolerant attitude towards drugs.
The change is a billion with great political ambitions that promised to unlock the law to help farmers in the Isaan region with new cash crops primarily for the medicinal market. It started with the 2019 election pledge by the elder Anutin Churn Villacle.
Isan is Thailand's most populous region and is important to secure votes in the upcoming general elections. In the first quarter of next year.
The conversion to billions of dollars in new potential income was warmly welcomed by the monopoly that controls the Thai economy and backed by the military government, where Anutin is the Minister of Health.
Large corporations and wealthy private investors are ahead of the law, buying vast plantations to grow cannabis in the best soils of the north and northeast, and factories for extracting premium CBD oil. Was established.
Last month's non-criminalization put them in a position to gain market share when the cultivation, trading and use of all cannabis products, from leaves and stems to buds, was legalized.
Legal restrictions on medicines or foods
Currently, cannabis is theoretically restricted to use in medicines or foods, and tetrahydrocannabin The content of cannabis must be less than 0.2% (THC), a compound that produces "high".
In fact, it is the legal gray area that excludes prosecutions under the Narcotics Act. Currently, there isn't even a minimum legal age to buy or sell it.
Cannabis invoices will be paid in the coming months to detail exactly what you can and cannot do.
For a small farmer like Lek, there is concern that it may be written with the interests of a large company in mind, rather than a homemade company like her.
"Government needs to go all the way ... every household can grow itself and there is no further control," she told VOA News.
"But if the law is passed, we guarantee that there will be only one large group of profitable capitalists."
'Amsterdam in Asia'
Currently, the cannabis turmoil is widespread in the kingdom. Tourists smoke cannabis on Bangkok's famous Khao San Road, but some Thais appeared in a seemingly immobile TikTok video after eating a marijuana brownie. The government demands responsibility and caution from cannabis growers and users.
"The main goal of legalizing weeds is still to have medicinal properties to boost the economy and health," a spokesman for the Prime Minister told reporters on June 29. This vacuum period until the official law is passed.
Weed lovers are celebrating a law change that reveals a long-hidden culture. It also stimulates major market opportunities and has been conducting research on the benefits of plants native to Thailand for centuries.
“Everyone in this industry will have their own space,” said Chokwan “Kitty” Chopaka. A few days after the legislation, he is an advocate and entrepreneur who has been attacked by inquiries since he opened a clinic in downtown Bangkok.
"We need researchers, accountants, marketers, product photographers as well as producers, sellers and consumers."
Other industry players roll back the law. I'm saying there isn't.
One of them is Siriya Thepcharoen, based in Siam Kannabisland, Chonburi, eastern Thailand, where a museum, a vast underground laboratory for growing weed strains such as "White Widow", and a plantation I have. She said the mission of her company, NUSA CSR, is to help make Thailand a global hub for medical marijuana use.
"We are targeting medical tourists with certain conditions such as insomnia, stress and Alzheimer's disease, and for the elderly who want to come to Thailand with R&R. I'm here, "she told VOA.
"But consider Thailand as" Amsterdam in Asia "and target young people who may travel here for recreation.