Thailand Is Betting Big On Cannabis – Visit Its First Legal...


2019-09-16 11:10:30 420 Magazine


The unraveling of harsh anti-pot laws across the world is finally coming to Asia. In East and Southeast Asia, democracies and dictatorships alike have long skewed toward severe penalties for marijuana users. Thailand, a key ally in America’s global war on drugs, has been no exception. But the perception of cannabis has begun to change with astonishing speed. Thailand’s right-wing government recently legalized medical cannabis — and identified the creation of a homegrown marijuana industry as a “top priority.” Even some of Thailand’s conservatives now talk excitedly of churning out “world-class cannabis” from its lush farmlands and stealing the lead before other Asian countries build their own markets. (Around the region, South Korea and the Philippines are taking baby steps toward loosening anti-pot laws while China has quietly permitted research into the drug.) In Thailand, at this point, there is no marijuana industry. But a few months back, authorities quietly allowed scientists to put together the country’s first-ever cannabis laboratory — one of the few legal facilities of its kind in Asia. That lab, at a school north of Bangkok called Rangsit University, is finally being unveiled. On a guided tour, The World was given access to more than a dozen pharmacists, medical researchers and agricultural specialists who are helping build this industry from scratch. Here are some key takeaways: Thailand’s first cannabis strains are supplied by lawbreakersImporting marijuana to Thailand — even for medical purposes — is still illegal. Researchers have had to work with cannabis confiscated by police and supplied via Thailand’s anti-narcotics bureau. In other words, drug users and traffickers may have inadvertently contributed to the advancement of medicine. Earlier this year, the scientists were handed about 40 kilo-sized bricks of weed. Most of it was contaminated by pesticides, heavy metals and other residues. But there was enough usable stock to create quality oils laden with Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, which the researchers have practiced distilling in their labs. Expect some flavorful THC-infused productsThe scientists aim to make life more bearable for people suffering through chemotherapy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. They’ve been creative in coming up with ways to administer doses of THC. Prototypes presented so far include THC-infused wafers, massage oils (which can be rubbed on the stomach) and a nasal spray. But the most inventive prototype is a flavorful powder that combines marijuana with signature Thai ingredients: sandalwood, ginger and three types of pepper. The powder is consumed as a liquid after mixing it with coconut oil. This will produce a peppery drink that, according to the researchers, also has “floral and sweet” flavors of coconut. Thailand will be home to Asia’s first ‘ganja studies’ curriculumThe college hosting the cannabis lab, Rangsit University, is putting together what they call a “ganja studies” program taught by professors specializing in pharmaceuticals, medicine and cutting-edge agriculture. (In the Thai language, “ganja” isn’t slang. It’s the formal word for cannabis.) At this point, the curriculum is envisioned as a minor, not a major, though demand is very high. Several dozen students have already tried to land spots on the enrollment list even though the program may take more than a year to roll out. As the program is more fully built up, researchers will start creating their own unique cannabis strains that don’t rely on confiscated marijuana from the police, says Thanapat Songsak, dean of the university’s College of Pharmacy. It’ll take time before THC products are rolled out en masseThe buzz around medical cannabis in Thailand is intense. Analysts are throwing around estimates valuing the nation’s potential marijuana market at more than half a billion dollars. And in the halls of government, some politicians are pushing for recreational use, citing California as inspiration. Still, the country remains in a “transition period,” says Supachai Kunaratnpruk, a former top official with Thailand’s health ministry who is now steering Rangsit University’s research efforts. For starters, there isn’t much supply. Marijuana plants are being grown in only a few government-approved greenhouses. Doctors at state-run hospitals have been cleared to dispense a small batch of THC oils to select patients but, for now, there aren’t enough legal marijuana plants to power an industrialized market. Influential figures in government, Supachai says, remain skittish about the specter of all-out legalization. There’s also a well-founded fear, he says, that this nascent industry will become monopolized by one or two corporations, possibly foreign, that are focused on profits and not health. “We can’t let it fall into one [set of] hands, one big company,” he says. “Our responsibility is to develop special Thai strains of world-class cannabis used in medicine. We want to cooperate with farmer co-ops. They grow it, we provide knowledge and it’s all sold to the medical profession. That’s the model.”
世界各地严厉的反倾销法律终于在亚洲展开。 在东亚和东南亚,民主政体和独裁政权都长期倾向于对吸食大麻的人施以严厉的惩罚。泰国是美国全球毒品战争的关键盟友,也不例外。 但是大麻的感知已经开始以惊人的速度改变。泰国右翼政府最近将医用大麻合法化,并将创建本土大麻产业列为“重中之重”。 就连泰国的一些保守派人士现在也兴高采烈地谈论从繁茂的农田里生产出“世界级的大麻”,并在其他亚洲国家建立自己的市场之前抢夺领先地位。(在该地区,韩国和菲律宾正采取婴儿措施放松反大麻法规,而中国则悄悄允许对这种药物进行研究。) 在泰国,目前还没有大麻产业。但几个月前,当局悄悄地允许科学家将中国首个大麻实验室——亚洲为数不多的此类法律设施之一——整合在一起。 在曼谷北部一所叫 Rangsit 大学的学校里,这个实验室终于揭晓了。在一次引导下的旅游中,世界被允许接触十几位药剂师,医学研究人员和农业专家,他们正在帮助建立这个行业从零开始。 以下是一些关键的注意事项: 泰国首批大麻毒株由违法者提供。向泰国进口大麻——即使是出于医疗目的——仍然是非法的。研究人员不得不与被警方没收并通过泰国缉毒局供应的大麻合作。换言之,毒品使用者和贩运者可能无意中为促进医药进步做出了贡献。 今年早些时候,科学家们交出了大约40公斤大小的杂草砖。其中大部分被农药、重金属和其他残留物污染。但是有足够的可用库存来制造高质量的含有四氢氨氮( THC )的油,研究人员在他们的实验室里进行了蒸馏。 科学家们的目标是让患有化疗、癫痫、多发性硬化症和慢性疼痛的人的生活变得更可忍受。他们创造性地提出了控制 THC 剂量的方法。 迄今为止提出的原型包括 THC 注射的晶片,按摩油(可以在胃上摩擦)和鼻喷剂。 但最具创意的原型是一种混合了大麻和泰国特色成分的调味粉:檀香木、姜和三种辣椒。 将粉末与椰子油混合后作为液体使用。研究人员称,这将产生一种辣椒饮料,这种饮料还含有椰子的“花香”。 泰国将成为亚洲首个“甘雅研究”课程的所在地兰格赛大学( Rangsit University )主办大麻实验室的学院,正在整合他们所称的“甘雅研究”项目,该项目由专门从事制药、医药和尖端农业的教授教授授课。(在泰语中,“ ganja ”不是俚语,而是大麻的正式名称。) 在这一点上,课程被设想为一个小,而不是一个专业,尽管需求非常高。几十名学生已经尝试在招生名单上找到位置,尽管该项目可能需要一年多时间才能推出。 该大学药学院院长塔纳帕特·松萨克( Thanabat Sonsak )说,随着该项目的建立更加完善,研究人员将开始制造自己独特的大麻毒株,这些毒株不依赖警方没收的大麻。 THC 产品大规模推出还需要一段时间。泰国医用大麻的流行非常激烈。分析师们对美国潜在大麻市场估值超过5亿美元的估计置之不理。在政府大厅里,一些政治家正在推动娱乐的使用,以加利福尼亚为灵感。 尽管如此,泰国仍处于“过渡期”,泰国卫生部前高级官员苏帕猜·库纳尔帕鲁克( Supachai Kunarapruk )说,他目前正在指导 Rangsit 大学的研究工作。 对于初学者来说,供应并不多。大麻植物只在少数政府批准的温室中生长。国营医院的医生们已经被批准发放一小批 THC 油给病人,但目前还没有足够的合法大麻工厂来为工业化市场提供动力。苏帕猜说,政府中有影响力的人物仍然对全面合法化的幽灵感到不安。 他表示,还有一种根深蒂固的担忧,即这个新兴行业将被一两家专注于利润而非健康的公司(可能是外国公司)垄断。 “我们不能让它落入一家大公司的手中。”“我们的责任是开发泰国特殊品种的世界级大麻用于医学。我们想与农民合作社合作。他们培养了它,我们提供了知识,并且全部卖给了医疗行业。这就是模型。”