For years I’ve been an advocate of allowing Thai farmers to grow hemp. Hemp is the same plant family as pot. Pot can get you high, hemp can’t because it doesn’t have more than a minute amount of THC. I’m still as jazzed about allowing hemp to be grown in Thailand as I’ve ever been, but now I’ve added pot to the list. I’ll start off articulating why pot should be allowed to be grown in Thailand, then will close with some mentions of hemp, along with some comparisons of drugs, including the world’s (and Thailand’s) most harmful group of drugs: alcoholic drinks.
I just returned from a trip to California, and what an eye opener. When planning my trip to visit some family and friends, I wasn’t thinking about pot. I haven’t smoked pot for nearly half a century, when a high school student in Washington D.C. At that time, during the Flower Power hippie days, there was peer pressure to smoke every evening with friends.
I never bought the stuff, but it was always available. All we had was marijuana leaf, which is low quality / low THC. A hippie was as likely to get a headache as a buzz in those daze gone bye. Nowadays, there is bud available. Also known as sensimilla, taken from the Spanish for ‘without seed.’ Female plants are grown without male plants, so in their quest to get pollen, the females continue to put out tightly packed flower buds. The buds are so packed with THC that they look like they’re dusted with powdered sugar. The difference with the leaf that my hippie buddies and I smoked in the late 1960’s is like the difference between straight vodka and watered down wine.
I haven’t smoked pot since 1970 but I know enough about THC to have a good idea of its effect. There are also therapeutic benefits. Pot smokers, doctors and healers have been saying for decades that pot has medical benifits. Just one of many applications relates to cancer. If you Google ‘marijuana, cancer’ you’ll find hundreds of thousands of testaments and pot-related products which articulate curing/alleviating cancer. Are any Thai medical scientists doing research in that arena? Probably not. Thais will do what they’ve always done: rely on scientific research of farang for direction. Regarding pot-related products: There are oils, chocolates, tars, and several smokeless ways to injest pot. Entire cottage industries are cropping up, mainly because Europe and the US are relaxing their laws about growing and smoking it.
There were millions of growers and users before the laws relaxed, but they’re numbers are swelling because people are now legally able to do what they’ve wanted to do for decades. Even Texan border police, (Texas is one of the few states which has not yet de-crimilized pot) are allowing quantities of pot to pass unhindered across the borders. Before recently, every user and grower was criminalized. In SE Asia, they’re still criminalized. As an example of how out-of-touch SE Asian leaders are, they still criminalize hemp on the same draconian level as pot. No matter that hemp can’t get a person stoned even if he smoked a whole garbage pail full of the stuff.
SE Asian laws regarding drugs aren’t based on reason, but instead are mostly dictated by US’s DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). The DEA invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually toward getting SE Asian leaders to toe the line about criminalizing all recreational drugs except alcohol. Even though US states are coming around to reason, the DEA is still living/thinking in the past. The DEA will become less harsh within five to ten years (even arch-conservative US politicians are in favor of reasonable drug laws which include decriminalizing pot and hemp). Hopefully, the DEA will get wise to what the American people want, and convey their less draconian restrictions to SE Asian governments, and SE Asian officials will, in turn, become less apt to criminalize people for non-harmful activities.
Currently, there are hundreds of otherwise decent people forced to rot in SE Asian prisons – whose worst crime is doing something stupid. Namely; they agreed to take a package from one country to another. Were they greedy to make quick money? Yes, but who isn’t? Were they dumb to accept an offer to take a dubious package on a plane? Yes, but to slap a person in to prison for decades (or execute that person) for being greedy and/or dumb is mean-spirited – particularly if the drug they’re accused of transporting is not any more harmful (and arguably less harmful) than wine. As for addiction, it’s been shown that pot is not addictive. The same cannot be said of coffee, cigarettes or heroin or sugar. Yes, no less an authority than National Geographic has stated that sugar is addictive.
Let’s do a quick comparison of two drugs: marijuana (pot) and alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is the only legal recreational drug in most parts of the world. Alcohol is also the most harmful drug in the world numerically, and in other ways. There are several reasons for this, not least because it’s a trillion dollar industry employing hundreds of millions of people worldwide. People involved with the alcohol industry include executives of alcoholic beverage corporations, advert/promo experts, employees, chemists, printers, bottle makers, bottlers, aluminum industry, truckers, store & shop owners, sports stars, hospitals and their staff, ambulance specialists, lawyers, party planners, law enforcement, psychiatrists & social workers, …..the list is long.
The gargantuan alcoholic drink industry has its tentacles in many areas. Nearly all legislators who make laws re; recreational drugs are themselves alcohol drinkers. Same for judicial and law-enforcement personnel. All those people are more familiar with alcohol and its effects, than they are with pot. If they were just making laws regarding alcohol, then that would be ok, but they’re also making laws about a drug they’re unfamiliar with. In sum, the alcohol drinkers are making criminals out of people who may be using/growing and/or transporting a drug which they (legislators/justice/law enforcement) are not directly familiar with. It would be akin to the same officials making and enforcing laws concerning the ingestion of booster-spice – a drug mentioned in some science fiction stories. How can they legislate on a substance (and ruin millions of peoples’ lives) which they aren’t directly familiar with? I’m not a aircraft engineer. Would you like me to design and fabricate parts for commercial airlines? Didn’t think so.
What are the comparative effects of alcohol use and pot use? One plays a part in most wife beatings and car wrecks. When has anyone beat their wife or caused a car wreck while high on pot? If you’ve read a news article about pot use causing such damage, please let us know the reference/specifics. Probably the worst that can be said about pot smoking is it makes people high and possibly lazy. Should being lazy be deemed a crime punishable by years of jail time? Talk to pot smokers and you’ll find the opposite is just as often true: that pot smoking can lead to alacrity.
Regarding being ‘high’, let’s look at that concept for a moment. Jesus was high. Buddha was high, …perhaps not from smoking pot, but look at how they acted and what was said. They sound much like mellowed-out pot smokers. Romantic love is being high. Should we criminalize lovers? Winning an Oscar or an Emmy award is a type of high. Perhaps our sage politicians should assign cops to stand in the wings during awards ceremonies, and arrest each winner as they exit the stage. That will send a message to everyone that getting high is a no-no – whether a person gets high from life’s experiences or whether those episodes are smoke-enhanced.
Each person on the planet has a brain which naturally produces at least two chemicals which can get a person high; dopamine and serotonin. Perhaps the DEA, in its zeal to forbid people from getting high, should ban those two chemicals also.
If law enforcement wanted to jail everyone who has done illegal drugs, there would be few people left on the outside. Pretty much every musician, sportsperson and artist would be guilty. Likewise everyone else who every took a puff of pot, including at least three recent two-term presidents of the USA, and essentially everyone else who has (or hasn’t) ever stood on a pedestal and railed against drugs.
How it is that enabling people to smoke and grow pot has been win-win for all involved: During recent years, one US state after another has decriminalized the use of, and allowed the legal cultivation of pot. First off, a question: what are the drawbacks with such policies? Answer: nearly none. Sellers of the one legal recreational drug, alcohol, were worried that legal pot would lessen alcohol sales. That hasn’t happened. Pot smokers have always enjoyed drinking alcoholic drinks as part of the equation. That trend continues. Has there been an increase in crime regarding use or growing of pot plants? Nothing noticeable, as far as I’ve heard. There are some thefts and bad deals, but those sorts of things have always happened in all societies regarding all sorts of products, agricultural or otherwise. Has there been an increase in wife beatings or car wrecks due to pot? No. Probably less, as pot users opt to ‘chill out’ at home, or perhaps go to a concert or shopping. Pot smoking is arguably less harmful than MSG, and certainly less harmful than ingesting sugary products.
What are some of the pluses, now that pot growing is allowed, and its use is out in the open? For starters, its legalization has decriminalized millions of people – people who, before the laws were changed to become more reasonable, had to cower in dark corners, never knowing if/when they’d be busted. It hearkens back to the two basic reasons people choose to smoke pot: to get high and/or for its medicinal qualities.
Another big plus is more money circulating in the economy. Before legalization, there were fewer pot smokers and growers. Probably over half the people who wanted to smoke pot, desisted because they didn’t want to break law. Now they don’t have to hide and be self-deprived. Because of decriminalization, the economics of pot has mushroomed dramatically. Regions of California, for example, which used to grow tens of tons of sensimilla pot, are now growing hundreds of tons. Similar dynamics are taking place in about 17 other states/regions such as Colorado, Washington state, Maine, and Hawaii. There are large numbers of people, mostly backpackers from overseas’ countries, who are migrating to pot growing regions for seasonal work. That’s led to the coining of a new word; ‘trimmigrants’ because they go to places where they can ‘trim’ for payment. Top quality sensimilla pot requires trimming small leaves from the valuable seed stalk ‘chollas’. The current payment rate for a trimmigrant is about $500 per kilo (Bt16,000). An adept worker can trim about a kilo/day. The current wholesale selling price for a kilo of good quality pot is around $5,000 (Bt.150,000). The retail price is two to three times that amount.
Just the economic factors alone are good enough reasons why Thai farmers (and other Thais) should be allowed to grow pot. If Thailand went the route of the USA and allowed pot to be grown, imagine what a boost that would be to Thai growers, trimmers, middle-men. His/her annual income would plausibly go from tens of thousands of baht, to millions. The market demand would be there – from Asian and other nationalities. Who would be the losers? No one. It would be win-win for everyone involved.
Pot is not only about getting high in a non-harmful way – in contrast to alcohol, but it also has medicinal applications. Research the therapeutic aspects of THC if you dare. Just on the one multi-faceted topic of cancer, there are millions of assertions of its beneficial affects. Are all those chronicles bogus? Doubtful, but at the least there should be medical testing/trials going on in Thailand and elsewhere. I’ve heard of no testing being done in Thailand, have you? Perhaps it’s just business-as-usual, where significant breakthroughs in medicine are performed in overseas countries, and Thailand belatedly follows their leads. If ingesting THC was shown to be beneficial for fighting/eradicating cancer, wouldn’t you want to know? Perhaps you or one of your family members had cancer. Surely, you’d want to know what natural options were available. Currently, the Thai government doesn’t want you to know your options and doesn’t want you to have any access to a substance as potentially beneficial as pot. Today’s legal situation is black and white as far as Thai officialdom is concerned: If anyone does anything related to pot in Thailand (uses, experiments, tests it), that person is liable to be found guilty of drug use and thrown in jail for a long time. Other SE Asian countries’ laws are even harsher, with death penalty possible. Indeed, if Mr. Thaksin was still PM, a pot smoker could be summarily shot to death on the sidewalk by a policeman, and the cop would probably get an official commendation for exemplary service.
And now for a mention of pot’s non-THC cousin, hemp. There are so many practical uses for hemp that many books have written articulating them. Volvo and BMW use hemp hurds to stuff their car seats. Houses are being built with excellent insulating properties of hemp. Canada has at least one product at their supermarkets which is 100% hemp seed. Hemp seed is the most nutritious seed, with mega-healthy omega-oil content rivaling wild salmon. In comparison, how healthy is rice? Answer: about as healthy as starch or white glue.
Hemp is legally grown and sold in China, Canada, Australia and half of European countries. Why aren’t Thai farmers allowed to grow hemp? The reason is largely because of the iron-fisted influence of US’s DEA, as mentioned earlier. How can the DEA exert such influence? Simple answer: lots of money. Have you seen Thai army officers driving around in green colored brand new Humvee’s? Do you think the Thai army paid for those fun cars? Most likely, they were given as gifts by Uncle Sam, for upholding draconian and criminalizing drug laws. Who do those laws protect? Among other entities, those laws protect people selling the only legal recreational drug: alcohol. In case alcohol execs haven’t figured it out already: legalizing pot and hemp won’t cause a decrease in alcohol sales. Allowing Thai farmers to grow and sell pot and hemp would put a boost in Thailand’s incoming revenues which would make any other money-making enterprises pale in comparison. Come on Thai legislators, do something to help Thai farmers, instead of crippling them with debt and compelling them to grow a crop which pays little.
Rice is labor-intensive, low nutrition, low income crop which keeps farmers impoverished. Pot is a medicinal as well as a recreational drug which could enrich Thai farmers and other non-farmer Thais. Pot growing/marketing is conducive to individuals making money. It’s not like mining or selling electricity, which puts all the power and revenue in a few peoples’ hands. It would be much harder to monopolize pot growing than it’s been to monopolize, for example, oil extraction. In sum, enabling Thais to grow pot and hemp would transfer billions of baht to millions of individuals. It would turn the pattern of ‘rich getting richer and poor getting poorer’ 180 degrees toward empowering the little people. It could also fatten tax revenues. In its first year of legalization, just the one US state of Colorado brought in 2.5 million dollars in tax revenue related to the pot trade.
Written by Ken Albertsen,
Chiang Rai, Thailand