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What is “psychoactive cannabis”?

At least 113 different naturally-occuring chemical compounds classified as “cannabinoids” have been isolated from plants of the species Cannabis sativa L. Many of these affect the functioning of the human brain, which is the textbook definition of “psychoactive.”

However, when discussing cannabis, the word “psychoactive” tends to be used to describe only one such effect: “getting high,” that is (from Wikipedia):

A general alteration of conscious perception, euphoria, feelings of well-being, relaxation or stress reduction, increased appreciation of the arts, including humor and music (especially discerning its various components/instruments), joviality, metacognition and introspection, enhanced recollection (episodic memory), increased sensuality, increased awareness of sensation, increased libido, and creativity.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid that, more than any other, “gets you high.”

Cannabis plants can be broadly classified into two groups, based in the amount of THC that they contain:

  • Hemp (ganjong): THC makes up less that 1% of the weight of cured cannabis flower.
  • Marijuana (ganja, Thai: กัญชา,  Khmer: កញ្ឆា): THC makes up 1% or more of the weight of cured cannabis flower.

THC is concentrated naturally, by the plant itself, in its flowers — especially those that have never been pollinated and therefore produce no seeds (“sensimilla,” literally “without semen,” i.e., virgin).

Not all cannabinoids are concentrated in the cannabis plant’s flowers. Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, tends to be distributed more evenly throughout the cannabis plant (although its concentration in cannabis flowers can also be quite high).

Therefore, when TCC refers to the “psychoactive cannabis,” it is referring specifically to (cured) cannabis flowers that have a concentration of THC that is higher than 1% by weight — which may have more or more or less CBD and other cannabinoids — and of the products made from these flowers and the extracts of these flowers.

Thailand’s unique combination of attributes give it a large global advantage in the psychoactive cannabis industry. Thailand’s advantage in the production of low-THC cannabis (hemp, ganjong), is considerably less compelling. Thailand is likely to be at an actual disadvantage in the production of hemp fiber compared to China and Europe. The production of edible cannabis seeds (“hemp nut”) is currently so limited and under-researched that no determination of Thailand’s relative [dis]advantage can be made.

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