Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It’s hard to distinguish it from drug jelly and regular jelly that are indiscriminately sold in Thailand

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On the 5th local time, I entered a hemp store on Sukhumwe Street in Bangkok, Thailand, and asked, “Do you have hemp jelly?” and the clerk pointed to the stand. About 10 different kinds of products are colorful and cute. The colorful colors in the shapes of animals and fruits caught the eye. On the outside, there is a price tag of 250 baht.

Some products are written in English as containing hemp, but some of them were difficult to distinguish them from regular jelly without looking closely at the ingredients. However, it is a jelly that is only cute on the outside and contains hemp ingredients.

The cookies sold with the jelly only said “handmade” meaning handmade products and “homemade” meaning homemade products. The clerk went one step further and said, “What do you want it for?” and “There are things you eat when you want to feel good, and there are things that make you feel calm and sleepy.”

Thailand, which became the first Asian country to legalize medical hemp in 2018, excluded hemp from drugs and allowed it to be grown at home in June 2022. Hemp products are classified as illegal drugs only if they contain more than 0.2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychotropic chemical.

Hemp stores have sprung up in the vicinity of streets, tourist attractions, and entertainment areas with large floating populations. In addition to cannabis smoked at the beginning of the year, various products such as hemp-based snacks and drinks are sold. Even large supermarkets and convenience stores sell hemp-based drinks.

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Some may mistake it for soju by marking the product name in Korean on a green bottle similar to a Korean soju bottle.

Other nearby hemp stores were also selling hemp jelly. The store recommended hemp brownies and hemp chocolate along with the jelly. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if it’s a hemp-containing product.

A clerk in his 20s said, “Jelly-shaped products are popular because they can be conveniently consumed anywhere,” and added, “Jelly, which is more effective than regular cannabis, sells well.”

Hemp has a strong scent, making it difficult to smoke in public places and many users do not want the shape of the beginning of the year, he added, so products in the form of jelly and candy are popular. Products containing THC that exceed the standard are of course illegal.

It is sold indiscriminately due to poor crackdowns, but not all stores deal with hemp jelly. “Our store’s policy is not to sell jelly or cookie-type products,” another store clerk said. “It is difficult to check where and how such products are made, and the ingredients are often opaque, so it is dangerous.”

“If it is not properly marked with hemp ingredients, it can be considered as illegal products,” he said. “In some cases, we do not mark it on purpose to eliminate the sense of rejection and sell more.”

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An employee at a nearby store also said, “I’ve also had to eat the wrong hemp cookie and lie down for nearly 10 hours,” adding, “I have to be careful when selling a lot of unauthorized products with strong hemp ingredients, especially in places like street vendors and night markets.”

Recently, in Korea, a brother and sister who were booked for eating jelly taken from Thailand were cleared of charges. The younger brother who ate the jelly complained of pain and was taken to a hospital, and he tested positive for hemp. However, it was judged that they ate the jelly without knowing that it was hemp jelly because it was difficult to suspect that it was hemp jelly.

In fact, the products they consumed were not significantly different from regular jelly, and there were no phrases or pictures in the packaging that could have suspected hemp. Most hemp-related products are sold in specialty stores, but there are exceptions. In addition, caution is required as there may be situations where hemp is encountered without being aware of it.

Ministry of Food and Drug Safety

In Thailand, side effects such as children eating hemp-based foods incorrectly and getting sick after legalizing marijuana occur. Last year, a 3-year-old baby was treated for an abnormality in his body after eating hemp-based cookies at a relative’s house. There was also an accident in which children who ate hemp-based cookies containing excessive THC were hospitalized in the southern part of the country. At the time, health authorities said an investigation found unauthorized products and that they were believed to have been smuggled in without going through formal customs procedures.

As various hemp-related problems persist, the current government is pushing to re-designate hemp as a drug by the end of the year and allow only limited medical use.

Thailand has actually been in a “regulatory vacuum” for two years as related laws have not been passed since marijuana legalization.

Even now, recreational use is not allowed in principle, but hemp is openly consumed to the point where “cannabis tourism” is prevalent. It is still unclear at what level the “policy U-turn” will take place as hemp farmers and vendors are protesting the Thai government’s plan to re-designate drugs. Of course, in either case, Koreans will be punished if they smoke cannabis or consume related products in Thailand.

The Thai government should enact a clear law to prevent many victims. The effects of drugs that the Thai government thought positively could lead to crimes.

JENNIFER KIM

US ASIA JOURNAL

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