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Rehan Mehta, Thai Stick:

“Like Swiss watches, we want people to think of Thailand for its cannabis”

The Thai cannabis market is in the news frequently. After making headlines two years ago for being the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis, the recent headlines have been discussing a supposed setback. Reading these articles gives the impression that the government is trying to ban recreational use. “That is not exactly the right way to look at it. The Thai government never fully legalized recreational use in the first place. By decriminalizing, they removed all the rules that applied to the plant. Now, the government has assured us that they do not want to hinder the industry, but to put checks and balances in place to professionalize it,” explains Rehan Mehta, CEO of Thai Stick. The company has a hybrid greenhouse and is optimistic about the future of the Thai cannabis industry. “Like Switzerland is famous for its watches, we want Thailand to become famous for its cannabis.”

Thai Stick grows in a mixed-light facility that consists of 920 square meters of vegetation canopy and 1,840 square meters of flowering canopy. Why choose a hybrid facility? “We looked at a few different options, but growing fully indoors at this scale would have been considerably more expensive. Moreover, we found it important that the plants receive their most important nutrient: sunlight. That will allow the plants to express a wider range of terpenes,” Rehan says.

Yet the majority of Thai cannabis growers have an indoor facility. “In Thailand, indoor products are automatically perceived as being of a substantially better quality. However, we believe that greenhouse or even outdoor cultivation does not necessarily result in an inferior product. It might be a bigger challenge for us as cultivators to deliver the same quality, as we have more variables to contend with. But it’s all about letting the right elements in, and keeping certain elements out: we want to let the sunlight in but keep the heat and humidity out. Once you’ve got that under control, you can ultimately get an equally good or even better product, at a more affordable price,” Rehan says.

Keeping the production cost down is important in a maturing market. “The average cannabis prices have already declined by about 30-40% since the market first opened in 2022. Yet at Thai Stick, we are not too concerned about that,” Rehan says. “We are keeping our production costs down, have a product that we believe speaks for itself, and have the kind of volumes coming in that will ensure that we can remain competitive. Moreover, we’re gearing up to export to other markets as well.”

Is a ban coming?
There has been lots of coverage recently about the Thai government wanting to ban recreational cannabis use. “I believe that is not exactly the right perspective,” Rehan says. “When the plant was decriminalized in 2022, they removed all controls over the plant. Overnight, cannabis became no different than a tomato. You could do with it what you wanted. That lasted for 2-3 weeks, before they introduced the first rules: you can’t sell cannabis to those under the age of 20, pregnant women, or breastfeeding mothers. It’s important to note that they decriminalized cannabis because of its medical benefits. They did not specifically say it’s being legalized for recreational use, they just removed all the rules. So, to say they are now reversing policies or taking a u-turn to ban recreational use is not entirely correct,” Rehan explains. Instead, Rehan explains that the lack of control has created a bad look for the Thai cannabis industry. “People see photos and videos online of a cannabis market without control, where the few rules which actually are in place are being openly flaunted. The government wants to dial that back and is trying to put in place an enforcement mechanism to do so.”

“In fact, the government has assured us that the upcoming new requirements are for the benefit of the industry, to professionalize it,” Rehan says. “I don’t believe they intend to take measures like shutting down shops. The government has repeatedly assured us that license holders will not be affected immediately by any new regulations coming into place. The government sees cannabis as a crop that can significantly contribute to the Thai economy. Moreover, the government recognizes the medical and wellness qualities of cannabis and want the Thai people to have safe access to these benefits. We believe that they will do what’s right for the industry. We see their recent postponement of the bill as a sign that they intend to hear us out.”

Swiss watches, Thai cannabis
While the country is waiting for the upcoming regulations to become more clear, Rehan is optimistic about the future of the Thai industry. “One of our goals at Thai Stick is to make Thailand internationally recognized as a producer of top-quality cannabis. Like Switzerland is famous for its watches, we want Thailand to become famous for its cannabis. We don’t see any reason why that can’t be the case,” Rehan says. “The Thai government has taken a leap and has given us the opportunity to grow this industry. It’s now up to us to do so responsibly.”

For more information:
Thai Stick