BANGKOK — Tom Kruesopon is a veteran investor who’s had his hands in booze, air travel, politics, insurance and software ventures. For his third (seventh?) act, the 51-year-old has rebranded himself as a cannabis evangelist. When news hit that medical cannabis is now the law of the land, we reached out to get his quick take on the bright green future he sees. Our exchange below is faintly edited.
Todd Ruiz: As of Monday night, medical marijuana is legal in Thailand. What does that actually mean? Can I go pick up a ‘scrip from my friendly neighborhood clinic?
Tom Kruesopon: Hooray, finally the suffering ends for people with chronic diseases. The answer to your question is no. As of right now, it will still be regulated to government-approved facilities . But as in the USA, one day it may be as easy as picking up your prescriptions for diabetes medicine. This is just the first and right step toward full legalization.
Todd: Under the existing law, as you understand it, how will one go about obtaining a prescription and cannabis?
Tom: You will have to go to an approved hospital or facility… a licensed doctor will then diagnose your situation, and if the doctor feels that medical marijuana will be helpful, a prescription can be given for the patient to pick up the medical marijuana in an approved dispensary, which will probably be in the hospital itself.
Todd: Where is the cannabis going to come from? Is Thailand ready with a supply chain of medical-grade materials? The labs to process it? How far out is this from being ready? Months? Years?
Tom: The simple answer to that is no. This is now simply an issue of putting the cart before the horse. Yes, medical marijuana is now legal, but no, the process of getting the medicine to the consumers is not in place. Thus, at the beginning, imports of medical marijuana will probably have to be put in place. There is no medical manufacture that’s got protocols in place.
Todd: So much of this legislating seemed ad-hoc, like they had a destination – legal medical weed – but no map for how to get there. So they just started making things up as they went. A big, unanswered question is the availability for foreigners. Being that a lot of our readers are not native daughters or sons, what can you tell them about medical cannabis and expats?
Tom: This is Thailand … we like to do things without first reading the instruction book. But to be fair, it’s better than doing nothing. As for foreigners, if they have a medical need for the product and go through the legal process they can get it too. Money is money.
Todd: I know you’ve been consulting with Bhumjaithai Party on their pro-cannabis policy. I’ll give you a chance to plug that if you can let folks know what are the key differences between their proposal and what was published in the Royal Gazette this week.
Tom: The key difference is that the party’s platform is designed to protect the consumer from Big Pharma. Khun Anutin, the party’s leader, wants medical marijuana to be available to all and not to only those who can afford it.
Todd: The doubters are convinced that only a privileged few will get their hands on the money to be made. They see a world where CP grows the strains and has a monopoly on 7-Eleven dispensaries. Is there any space in here for the plucky entrepreneur to make some baht?
Tom: Cannabis is the next good rush and is one that any creative person can make successful. Think of the marijuana as the iPhone, and look at how many billionaires were created because they figured out how to create the ecosystem to support the iPhone. There was no Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter before the iPhone – same logic here.
Todd: Samut waa: You’ve just taken three massive bong hits. Describe for us what Thailand looks like in your best-case, Utopian, scenario both socially and economically because of all this five years from now.
Tom: Through the progressiveness of this legalization policy, Thailand has the opportunity to be a major player in the world’s cannabis market. From growing to finished products. What France is to wine, Thailand can be to marijuana. Billionaires will be created on the economic side and on the medical side, Thailand can help cure the pain of people worldwide, truly bringing the land of smiles to all.
Todd: Your background is in business ranging from air travel to alcohol. What else are you up to now with cannabis in Thailand?
Tom: Pushing the right policies and investing. For people who want to know more about the medical and economic benefits for their personal lives, I will be hosting a seminar on this topic from 2pm to 8pm on March 6 at the Smooth Life building on Sathorn Road. It will be myself; Dr. Erik Fleischman, an expert on medical marijuana usage to help ease cancer and other diseases; and the former deputy permanent secretary of commerce giving those who attend the right knowledge and information.
Todd: Wake & Bake Bonus Round: If you pay someone to kill you, is it murder or suicide?
Tom: My ex-wife would say murder so she can get the insurance. I would say suicide because of my ex-wife.