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Thailand, Weed and Banking (1)

The decision by Thailand to permit, indeed encourage, the cultivation and use of cannabis (within constraints) puts it at odds with all of its neighbours and all other members of ASEAN. And it raises serious concerns for banks, et al.

It is the opium that is often said to be root cause of the near-constant political upheaval in Myanmar: some want to benefit, some want to control and benefit and some want to eradicate it. Heroin is, to a degree, falling out of fashion and so poppy production has been falling worldwide but economic conditions indicate that heroin may increase in popularity again.

It follows, then, that it is Thailand’s role as a transit country for the Opium from the Triangle that has long made it a country that has an elevated risk profile in relation to drugs trafficking.

A report by the US Department of Justice in 1992 explained the distribution of cultivation and refining of heroin including the then notorious ″China White,″ a name which was adopted by a London Nightclub that became an instant success by association.

However, by the early 2020s, Thailand had turned some of its poppy production into coffee plantations. This stemmed from a discovery by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great of Thailand who, in 1969, found that the poppy growers didn’t earn as much as everyone thought. In fact, those that grew peaches earned as much. So he encouraged the swap from poppies to peaches and, over time, the growth of coffee which is more profitable.

All of this means that Thailand’s role in the production of heroin has diminished but it remains an important transit country.

However, Thailand’s relationship with marijuana has been far more complex and, in modern times, the trouble started with US troops on R&R from Vietnam and on military bases the USA put there. An article in The Diplomat says that the first bundle of Thai marijuana arrive in the USA in ″the 1960s″ via the Army Post Office. That’s a bit too vague for me and so I think we can’t rely on it being a fact.

Marijuana was not new in Thailand: it had been used for centuries but rarely to excess. It was a common ingredient in Thai cooking. The climate is suited to growing cannabis plants which can often be found growing as weeds, as it can on the roadside in Bhutan.

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Nigel Morris-Co...