“Look over there. That sign – 2nd Annual Cannabis Cup. So they’re gonna do it again. I can’t believe it. Again this year. Terrible idea.
“What can’t you believe?”
“That thing is a terrible idea.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Well, I’m a cannabis lawyer here in Thailand for one. And I keep up on cannabis law. The government is not gonna sit back while people continue to use cannabis recreationally. They’re just asking for trouble. And they make the industry look bad.”
“You’re a cannabis lawyer? I’ll be. I’m a cannabis judge. I wish everyone could be a cannabis Judge. It’s a supercharged learning tool, for sure.”
“A cannabis judge, huh? What does that entail?”
“I’m one judge on a panel of 11. I sample between 50 and 60 entries and record my judgment calls, in accordance with the rules of the Annual Phuket Cannabis Cup.”
“THAT Phuket Cannabis Cup?” asked the lawyer, nodding to the poster.
“But that’s all recreational. It’s all illegal now. The whole Cup is recreational cannabis which is just illegal in Thailand. It’s already been decided.”
“What do you mean by recreational? And how is it illegal, exactly?”
“It’s been decided that recreational cannabis will be official very soon. Right now it’s unofficial. That’s why a big cannabis party is the last thing we need.”
“When you say the Cannabis Cup is all recreational, do you include my judging the best of the best of Thai dried flower? I try not to get to hung up on the recreational kick. Where do you draw the line?”
“You asked me what the line is. The line is if you go to your doctor and he prescribes cannabis medicine you can get your prescription filled as long as you have your ID.’
“Would only pills from big pharma be legal? What about other extracts? And the oils that are made and mixed in traditional Thai medicine?”
The judge invited the lawyer to meet him in his chambers and promised to show him how being a judge at the Cannabis Cup led him to become a confident judge of any dried cannabis flower in the world in 3 days.
Later that afternoon, the judge showed the lawyer his Ganja Exam Table.
”In just three days, I got really good. I increased my confidence to spot a strain by touch and smell. And I keep learning more. It makes sense when you think about it.”
“It does not make sense. That’s just cannabis cowboy behavior.”
“Did you attend the one last year?”
“Of course not, but I did condemn it in writing.”
The judge pulled out a clipboard from under the exam table.
Ganja Exam Table. Each strain is numbered. I try to judge samples in batches of numbers that are close to one another.
“Did you condemn the Cannabis Cup contest itself?”
“I condemned the idea of a huge pot party at a convention center, yes. And I said it was a bad move to celebrate recreational cannabis. On the grounds that it would put the industry in a bad light and turn popular opinion against legitimate cannabis.”
“Have you ever thought of The Cannabis Cup itself as a vehicle for learning and a platform for education?”
The judge showed the lawyer the Final Judges Form.
“The best way to understand this is to see it as an extended learning module for each judge, as well as a way to collect data from the judges while they learn. There are three items that make the judging effective.”
1. A bud in a bag with a number
2. The bud characteristics key
3. The final judge’s form
“Ok, wait. That kinda just blew my mind a little. Medical cannabis must be regulated. For patients only.”
“Who decides who is and who is not a patient?” Should dried cannabis flowers be denounced as non-medical? How much should it cost? How inconvenient should it be?”
“No one should be selling these strong cannabis buds to kids. That’s what’s happening now because cannabis in Thailand is in Chaos.”
“You’ve changed the subject!,” said the judge to the lawyer. “I’ve given you three reasons why strict, centrally controlled medical cannabis regimes lead to sick, sad marketplaces.
What kind of supply chain do you imagine, in this tightly restricted market where there is no supply and demand?” Maybe you get a medical market like they have in the UK, where after five years since the legalization of medical cannabis, it is hardly used. Is that OK with you?”
“I’m for medical and for industrial. That’s more than enough. No recreational means no cannabis flower; then regulating medical and industrial will be a piece of cake.”
“I’m not sure you can just run the Thai cannabis market from some central command like that and not expect negative economic consequences.”
“We have to try – for the kids.”
“Did you know we have multiple studies now — going back years — on the impact of legalized dried cannabis flower on minors? In most cases, weed use among minors went down. And not by a little, but by a wide margin. In several cases, a 25 percent reduction of underage weed use is reported. It looks like keeping weed illegal increases its popularity among minors.”
“First I smell it without looking at the chart.” The judge takes a bud from a baggie and smells it and looks at it. “OK. I know what I smell. Here, see what you smell.”
“It smells sweet, like hard candy. Strawberry or cherry candy. The hard kind. You don’t see it much anymore.”
“No, you don’t. I smelled berries and cherries as well. Right away. The first step is to examine the bud by smelling it and smoking it,” explained the judge. “But you’re not out in the cold just making it up. No. This color-coded key gives you guidance on almost everything.”
“It’s a very pleasant aroma.”
“Yes, it is,” said the judge, pointing to the number 9 on his best of cannabis list. “Look what it says:
Berries, cherries — so we are both on target! Next, they say it makes you feel giddy and sleepy. Should we test this proposition councilor?”
“Yes I think we should,” said the lawyer, turning off his cell.
“I see what you are saying. Each bud is an exercise in strain identification.”
“You don’t mind breaking the law?”, asked the judge, as the lawyer puffed the pipe. “You can see that this strain with this number has been identified as a sativa, smelling of berries and cherries with flavor tones of what to me tastes like black pepper and chestnut. And it was cultivated indoors, which means it has been tested the most.”
“I guess I am breaking the law technically. Is this medical cannabis?”
“You tell me councilor. Does it make you feel better or worse?”
“I feel fine. Really great. Like going to the beach. That’s how I feel. I’m a grown man. You’re telling me that it could be illegal to experiment with these samples and learn about strain identification? That’s just dumb.”
It’s going to be huge this year at the 100,000 square meter The Blue Tree.
“It is great to wake up to new smells or to just recognize a smell that appeals to you and realize that now it’s back again. As you focus on improving, you can get to a point where you insist there is a smell that the key didn’t catch – an important piece of data – or, though this hasn’t happened to me, I’m sure you can get good enough to recognize human error in earlier assessments.”
“So it is a kind of “outward bound” for plant medicine, where you learn about the plant in the same way the original traditional medical doctors did.”
“I never thought of it like that. But yes, I suppose you’re right.”
And you can eventually identify what you are looking for if you are suffering from stress and all the disease that comes along with it.”
“I can see how this process is very educational now; scientific even, in its data collection. You have given me a great deal to think about judge. Thank you.”
“As the founder of The Phuket Cannabis Association and creator of the Phuket Cannabis Cup has said:
The medical benefits of cannabis already blur the lines between health and recreational use, effectively rendering any ban on leisure unfeasible.
‘“More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway,” Poonwarit said. “Cannabis is here to stay, but in what status is not yet clear.’”
Listen to Cannabox’s Carl K. Linn Show podcast with the president of the Phuket Cannabis Association, Poonwarit, here.