Cannavigia’s seed to sale software is being used on four continents, so it should be no surprise that we have entered the Asian market. With Thailand always being in Cannavigia’s sight, most Asian countries slow out of the starting blocks and Thailand’s surprising change in laws earlier this year, the choice of where to enter the market was not very difficult. Getting settled in Thailand, we recently signed a MoU with Teera Botanicals and had a conversation with the man leading them. Note. This is what he had to say about cannabis compliance in Thailand, the market and where things are heading.
If you want to know more about the history and the current situation of the industry and cannabis compliance in Thailand, read part one of our Thailand cannabis country report.
Please tell us about who Teera Botanicals is and how they operate?
Teera Botanicals is a subsidiary of the Teera Group. The company will focus on getting the certifications for GACP and GMP for processing cannabis and the laboratories. The umbrella group is there to support Teera Botanicals to maximise our exposure. So Botanicals is our pure operations whereas the Group is there to take care of the rest. Teera has an MoU with Kasetart University which is the most important agricultural university in Thailand. Because we are an indoor facility, this makes it a very strategic partnership. The deal determines that we can do both research and commercial exploitation together with them. This invaluable partnership provides access to a platform that allows more activities that may not be permissible under a regular commercial legal framework. We can extract and share the results and technology with them – their focus is getting the academic paperwork out and educating students that can work in the industry and ours is to develop a product that is acceptable in the rest of the world. The idea is to train as many talents as possible in order to stimulate the industry. Cannabis is such a new industry that it requires a lot of commercial training rather than home growing or underground growing, so there needs to be a lot of paperwork, SOPs and protocols in place. This is a wonderful support system that we have.
What is your background?
I come from an entrepreneurial background in the agriculture industry. I started with specialty coffee, training as a coffeeologist under the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe. The idea was to get Thai coffee to the level where it could be exported, but the timing wasn’t right. I then went into organic coconut processing that makes raw coconut water and raw coconut meat for export to the US, Europe, the Middle East and more developed markets. The business has grown quite well, and led me into the cannabis industry because of the usage of the coconut peat as a growing medium for high class cannabis in the West. So little by little we found Teera.
What is the current state of cannabis law in Thailand and what works and what doesn’t?
We have been in cannabis since 2018 and have seen the evolving Thai laws within the legal framework. The main laws are passed, while the by-laws to support it are passed later. It also takes a while to finalise everything. These by-laws are arranged and negotiated with the different ministries. This what is happening right now since the 9 June legislation. Currently there is a political and legal vacuum because there aren’t any rules. There are only three laws that are applied – no sales to under 20 year olds, no sales to pregnant women and no sales to women who are breastfeeding. The framework is therefore missing. If you need a license to open a shop, you can’t do it, but you open the shop anyway.
Cannabis has always been part of the Thai culture, it’s used for cooking, medicine and to make tea. One of the drawbacks of the lack of laws is the inability to import any finished product and we made the decision to stick to the law even though we have access to high end stuff. At the same time the market is flooded with illegally imported product that is sold openly and that is a shame. The pro-cannabis legislation was made to benefit the people of Thailand, a cash crop for the farmers and opportunity for Thailand to put ourselves on the map and to help us distribute wealth. It was also meant to benefit research so we can further develop our traditional medicines and for entrepreneurs and local businesses. Initially it was determined that any business that entered the cannabis market had to be 70/30 in favour of the Thai partner. That has already been dropped to 66/33. Since the by-laws were not passed in September as expected, the vacuum around the legal necessity remains. Currently there is too much politics at play. The political stability is not so good at the moment because of the looming changes. This situation will most probably persist until after the election.
You recently signed a MoU with Cannavigia. What does this entail?
Thailand has not been able to export any of our herbs as active pharmaceutical ingredients. We have amazing herbs that have medicinal and therapeutic properties but the world is missing out on this because we do not have the right certification in place. So firstly, we have an educational programme. The project with Cannavigia and the university will serve as a base for the herbal industry so we can cultivate new talent and up our game to be acceptable in the rest of the world. Since Thailand is also the first country in the region to take these important steps, we hope to serve as a leader for other countries, not just growing Thai talent but also regional talent. It makes sense that the MoU we have in place with Cannavigia will generate a new generation in the workforce.
And the compliance aspect?
One of the things we are doing is setting up a foundation to help educate farmers to achieve GMP and GACP standards. In order to do that we have to show the authorities a success story and that we will do with a bigger company like Teera using the Cannavigia software. The whole idea is to elevate the whole industry by using this software, show new standards and then help to educate the rest of the growers in order to make Thai exports compatible with the required standards. The achievement is critical for our business moving forward. We have partners who have done this kind of thing in other countries so doing the compliance process through the Cannavigia software really simplifies our road. It really allows us to approach this more simply.
How will Cannavigia help with the research aspect?
The track and trace system allows for the researchers to understand exactly which batch the product is coming from, to figure out where in the process things went wrong and right. It will help us be sure that the research is more precise and help us with consistency. This has been one of the two main challenges that we have faced. The other being access to funding. So, the project with Cannavigia will help us cross the first hurdle which is producing consistent product.
Do you need help becoming compliant in Thailand? Get in touch so we can talk about your project and how we can support you.