PATHUM THANI — Behind steel doors, the watchful eyes of CCTV cameras, and security guards atop an inconspicuous campus building is one of the few places in Southeast Asia where cannabis can legally blossom.
Three months after receiving authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to cultivate weed, Rangsit University was ready to showcase its pot farm and medical marijuana research center to the press on Friday.
Seven stations responsible for different stages of research – ranging from cultivation, extraction, to medicine production – were presented. A prototype plantation spanning a 32sqm rooftop was perhaps the most intriguing station. After all, it’s one of just four places in Thailand where cannabis can be legally grown.
Here, several weed strains are being tested for optimal growing conditions, with approximately 70 plants being grown both inside the greenhouse – where they are nurtured using a “root spa” watering system – and outside in pots with organic fertilizers.
Researchers hope to use the carefully cultivated plants to develop a medical-grade strain optimal for the extraction of beneficial cannabis chemical compounds.
Quality and purity were repeatedly emphasized during the guided tour. Prior to the legalization of medical cannabis, researchers used marijuana seized by narcotics police for research, but such specimens proved contaminated and unsafe for medical use. In place of expensive exported seeds, all plants in the farm are now grown from the tissues of confiscated marijuana, where different strains have usually been blended.
The plants were not yet mature enough for harvesting on the day of the visit. Outdoor plants were about 150-175 centimeters tall, while indoor plants tended to be smaller at around 30 centimeters high.
So far, researchers have discovered that the injection of certain cannabis compounds inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells in mice.
Although this may be promising news for patients and pro-weed activists, the director of the research center, Surang Leelawat, warned that it is too early to conclude that weed can cure cancer.
“Our trials with animals have indicated certain results,” Surang said. “However, we can only confirm them once we have developed further clinical trials involving humans.”
Other stations highlighted the fruits of the research facility over the past two years. Four medical cannabis products were presented: cannabis tablets to assist patients with swallowing difficulties, pure cannabis oil for patients with sleeping and eating disorders, an oral marijuana spray, and a traditional Thai Phrasa-Kancha cannabis-derived recipe.
The products will hit the market soon, but stoners be warned – they won’t get you high as they’re based on non-euphoric compounds.
The private university has invested more than 40 million baht in the dedicated medical cannabis research facility. The center has been conducting experiments since 2016 – even before legalization.
Early this year, Thailand became the first government in the region to legalize cannabis for medical use.
Dubbed as a “New Year’s present to all Thais,” the policy is a result of several years of activism by pro-weed groups. The policy change has ignited both concerns about possible abuse, and bids from foreign capital to profit from Thai weed production.