Assessing Thailand’s Massive Cannabis Market Reality


Written by Michael Sassano, CEO, Somai Pharmaceuticals


The Thai cannabis market is currently a full-blown recreational model, and it has exploded quicker than any market in legal cannabis history. The only comparable markets would be California 15 years ago and maybe New York in the last year — with steroids added.

Thailand’s Rec Boom Reminiscent of Early CA and NY

Thailand has over 12,000 licensed dispensaries, not including untold numbers of unlicensed vendors. California, which had nearly 3,000 unlicensed dispensaries at the start of its adult-use cannabis market and thousands in New York City within months of decriminalization, comparably pales to Thailand’s growth.

It is difficult to compare the dominance of unlicensed dispensaries in such Western markets to Thailand’s mostly licensed legal infrastructure. Potentially, this system is about to be shaken up with rumors of a strict medical market incoming. However, once you set foot in Thailand, it is almost impossible to imagine American or European-style medical or recreational models finding success, for that matter. Why? Because cannabis is everywhere!

Thai Regulators Are Cleaning Up a Messy But Busy Industry

Thailand’s early cannabis laws have fostered a pioneering recreational cannabis culture, blending modern entrepreneurship with old-world hippie ideals. Although there has been much debate and political waves about moving toward a medical model, putting this genie back into the bottle seems highly unlikely.

On one side of Thailand, rich neighbors like Singapore and China are pushing for medical cannabis only. On the other side, less affluent countries like Cambodia and Laos look to Thailand for prosperous ideas, such as their booming recreational market. Pressures exist from both sides and legislatively, a very light cleaning is all that may be possible at this point.

Despite Strong Investment Activity, Thailand Remains an Insider Market

Internally, massive growth and retail footprints span the gamut of powerful conglomerates investing like Thai Stick, American companies like MedMen, every entrepreneurial cannabis spirit you can imagine, and even global underground growers. But have no doubt — this is an insider market, and rules are not being followed or enforced strongly yet.

For example, each dispensary must have a responsible doctor on the premises, but enforcement is lax to nonexistent. Dozens of drugs that closely resemble compounded products and Thai Traditional Medicine formulations were approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration and can be used by medical practitioners. Accordingly, it is clear that cultivation and retail sales are highly developed and continuing to develop. Additionally, although extracted products are strictly limited, almost every store sells a wide range of homemade infused gummy bears and brownies.

If Thailand Lays Groundwork for Export, Cultivation Flourishes

Many international cultivation groups are setting their sights on Australian and European Union markets, but there is not much of a regulatory path in those countries for import or exportation.

Thailand has a rich history of cannabis cultivation and a low-cost growing environment; accordingly, exporting to higher-priced import markets like Germany is the prize. Every cannabis consultant in Thailand is building indoor facilities for groups or enclosed greenhouse hybrid technologies like Thai Stick’s and even consulting on outdoor grows, of which there are untold numbers.

With cannabis sold on every corner and prices coming down, the Thai market clearly has hit an inflection point with massive supply and a corresponding sales infrastructure. While much improvement is needed, Thailand will deliver some of the best global cannabis if they can export.

Landrace Thai Cannabis Genetics Present Unique Global Opportunity

Some legacy growers have even been able to emerge from the underground scene and cultivate ancient and pure Thai genetics at new indoor facilities. Local and global markets would be lucky to get these strains that today have all been cross-bred over and over in other locations. A major limitation is that cannabis can only be exported as “samples” to EU countries or upon receiving special export pharma licenses and certifications like EU-GMP.

To date, few groups have received EU-GACP registrations, and most likely none to export despite typical cannabis chest-beating and rumors. Thailand would have a massive advantage in global cannabis markets if they could export. Cannabis exportation would create an enormous economic benefit for Thailand, similar to cannabis cultivation in countries like South Africa.

Preparing for a Future ‘Medical’ Cannabis Market in Thailand

Thai legislators will most likely pass medical cannabis laws to control the overall industry better and placate the concerns of wealthy neighboring countries. But have no doubts — just like in Florida, the cannabis market will legally present as medical while functionally being one of the most advanced recreational markets ever imagined.

Global players looking to bring products to Thailand shouldn’t bother; locals and a consultant army continue to grow the internal supply. Although dispensaries are on an inflective decline, cultural differentiation and cannabis entertainment will be a boon for innovative local entrepreneurs who can navigate the legal framework.

Global distributors should prepare by choosing their cultivation partners carefully since exports are inevitable and may be included in any future medical cannabis laws. Australian operators are logical future trading partners; piercing the EU market will be the winning path for those cultivators who partner correctly and grow consistent, high-quality cannabis flower.

Don’t Buy Into Thailand’s Medical Cannabis Hype

No matter what regulations come, Thailand’s recreational start was so impressive and massive that it would be more detrimental than positive to reverse the boom — and most likely not accomplish a more controlled taxable base or market.

From a global reputation level, some more defined quality rules would go a long way to strengthen export demand and provide safety to all consumers. While more global-orientated businesses will adhere to purchasing quality standards, most regional operators will support lackadaisical local social-minded cannabis markets. If anyone wants to see what a Disney-esque vision of recreational cannabis in Asia looks like, just go to Thailand!


Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top