Thai businesses cash in on cannabis, from milk tea to toothpaste
BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thai businesses are cashing in with cannabis-infused products like toothpaste, tea, soaps and snacks after the government legalised the plant and its extract this year, generating a wave of interest in the drug.
"It gives me a deep and comfortable sleep," said Mr Pakpoom Charoenbunna, 32, who buys a cannabis-infused drink from his regular milk-tea vendor.
Thailand became the first South-east Asian country to legalise marijuana in 2018 for medical use and research.
Last month, Thailand decriminalised the entire plant.
Dropping cannabis from its narcotics list has led to an explosion of recreational use.
Officially, commercial products approved by the food and drug regulator can contain cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical in cannabis that does not make users high.
But the regulator limits the content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the active ingredient that gets users high - in any cannabis product to just 0.2 per cent.
Thailand has a long history of using cannabis in traditional medicine to relieve aches and pains. Innovators are now coming up with new ideas.
Mr Surawut Samphant, owner of the Channherb cannabis shop, has created a toothpaste.
"One of its ingredients is cannabis sativa seed oil, which contains CBD," he said.
Mr Surawat said the toothpaste helped with gum care and one satisfied customer said it worked for him.
"I have receding gums and sometimes they get infected," said Mr Nikom Rianthong who has been using the toothpaste for two months.
"It solved my problems," he said, adding he won't be going back to other brands.
The owner of the Kanomsiam dessert shop, Mr Kreephet Hanpongpipat, has long sold pandan-leaf flavoured dishes but a year ago incorporated cannabis leaf to draw in new customers.
Mr Kreephet said his customers say the cannabis-infused desserts help them get a good sleep.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the main driver behind the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes, estimates the industry could be worth more than US$3 billion (S$4.17 billion) within five years.
"I want to see people getting rich out of doing these products in a positive way," he told Reuters. "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."
Producers of THC-rich marijuana have taken advantage of the push to promote medical marijuana and stalls selling pot have sprung up around the country.
Mr Anutin said that there were public health laws that can prevent recreational use while a cannabis Bill is being deliberated in Parliament.
Mr Kreephet said there needed to be more public education on the benefits and dangers of cannabis so it can be used safely.