Thai Businesses Thrive on Cannabis, But to What End?
Easing government restrictions on cannabidiols, Thailand is making money from cannabis-infused desserts, bubble tea, and skin care
The Thailand government has eased restrictions on cannabis, encouraging business interest in the drug with cannabis-infused desserts, bubble tea, toothpaste, soaps, and snacks. These products are allowed to contain cannabidiol which does not get consumers high. However, health officials say that they only want to encourage medicinal usage.
In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize marihuana for medical use and research. The country decriminalized the entire plant last month, which led to a boom in its recreational use.
Thailand has been using cannabis in traditional medicine to ease pains and aches. But it is inventing new ways to consume the drug for various purposes. Some have created a cannabis-infused toothpaste to help with gum care and apparently, it works. Moreover, a few have incorporated cannabis leaf into desserts, which consumers are saying helps them get a good sleep.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul estimates the industry could be worth over $3 billion within the next five years. He said;
I want to see people getting rich out of doing these products in a positive way. My policy on cannabis is only focusing on medical purposes and health care. That’s all. We can’t encourage the use of cannabis in other ways.
While a cannabis bill is being deliberated in parliament, the country must ponder over the environmental implications of rising cannabis cultivation. Planting cannabis for commercial production is already causing forest fragmentation, stream alteration, soil erosion, and landslides. Without any strict land-use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the effects of cannabis farming could exacerbate.
Moreover, the water-hungry crop can dry up forested watersheds and riverbeds with commercial demand increasing exponentially. The high water requirement for cannabis cultivation can exceed the amount of water flowing in nearby water resources, depriving aquatic life of the required water amount to sustain life in the changing climate.