When Thailand formally legalized industrial hemp in 2017, it was clear that the Thai government was not only starting to realize the enormous economic potential of this long-stigmatized yet uber-versatile crop, but that it fully intended to be a driving stakeholder in the emerging multi-billion-dollar industry.

That initial ministerial regulation, which specified rules for industrial hemp cultivation in the kingdom, mandated for research and production licenses to be issued specifically on a public-private-partnership basis. Such a PPP framework is also central to investment prerequisites concerning the latest legislation enacted in February this year that made Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis.

Indeed, for those seeking a piece of the cannabis pie, PPP is the way forward.

One such promising project formed as a result of Thailand’s recent cannabis legislative reforms is that between government agriculture research institute, Maejo University and the Thai Cannabis Corporation in Chiang Mai.

Asian Seed recently visited with the two organizations in North Thailand to learn about their project with respect to breeding and commercial objectives.

The project is focusing on the development of new Thai cannabis varieties that will yield quality oil for use in medicinal and therapeutic applications. Initially, the focus was to breed high-CBD, low-THC strains in compliance with the hemp regulation that caps THC content of plants at no more than 1% of dry weight.

However, in light of the new medical cannabis law, the project has now expanded breeding objectives to also include high-thc varieties.

This is not the first time that Maejo University has actively pursued cannabis research. The late Associate Professor Arkom Kanjanaprachote, nicknamed in Thai academic and agriculture circles as the “Father of Hemp”, had previously collaborated with the Royal Project Foundation and the Highland Research and Development Institute in the development of new industrial hemp strains.

Their research ultimately led to the registration in Thailand of four new industrial hemp varieties: RPF 1, RPF 2, RPF 3 and RPF 4.

However, since these industrial hemp varieties are all low-THC and low-CBD strains, specifically bred for the purpose of yielding tall-growing plants with long fiberous stalks, the Thai Cannabis Corporation and Maejo University team look to broaden their breeding base.

In their initial trials, they’ll use some Thai strains as parent lines. However, since their main objective is oil, not fiber, they plan to screen, breed and select from many new accessions, including from local landraces as well as imported germplasm.

From the commercial side, a spokesperson from Thai Cannabis Corporation stressed the importance of Thai farmers. Indeed, TCC believes that cannabis has the potential to eradicate poverty, but only if it’s not managed in the same way as mass-produced cash crops such as rice, maize, soya and sugarcane, rubber and palm.

And though hemp fiber is an extremely useful raw material, this project’s players realize that industrial hemp could not be sustainable for Thai farmers in the long run, or on a macro scale.

No doubt, Thailand would find it extremely difficult to compete with leading textile producing countries like India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Hence, the project’s efforts will focus on what Thailand is best at — cultivating the highest quality product from the highest quality plant material available.

For now, that means high quality medicine, but the future is only beginning. 

For more information visit Thai Cannabis Corporation.