BANGKOK — One of Thailand’s leading fast food chains is promoting its “Crazy Happy Pizza” this month, an under-the-radar product topped with a hemp leaf. It’s legal but won’t get you high.
Veterans of the backpacker trail, familiar with the famed pizza parlors in neighboring Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, that offer potent marijuana as an alternative spice, can feel completely duped.
“Of course, they can’t be that high,” Panusak Sunsetboon, general manager of the pizza company, said in an interview this week. “It’s just a marketing campaign. And you can taste the cannabis and then if you’ve had enough, you probably get a little sleep.”
Crazy Happy Pizza is a mashup of toppings topped with deep-fried hemp leaves along with the flavor of Thailand’s famous Tom Yum Gai soup. Cannabis is also sautéed in cheese crusts and chopped hemp in a dipping sauce. A 9-inch pie costs 499 baht (about US$15). Customers who prefer the do-it-yourself variety can choose their own toppings, with a 100 baht ($3) surcharge for two or three hemp leaves.
The cannabis plant has been used for two major purposes: as hemp for making rope and clothing, and as an intoxicant, known as pot, hemp and dagga.
In recent years, a sort of middle-ground product has emerged: cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical found in cannabis that can be processed as a cure-all drug. CBD can be isolated from tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – the chemical in cannabis that produces marijuana high.
CBD has legalized products made from cannabis, drawing on the mystery of marijuana without violating the law or raising major health questions. It has become a booming industry, especially in the United States.
Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Thailand, and you can get fines and jail time, even though drug laws have been liberalized over the years. Cannabis for medicinal use is regulated, and individuals are allowed to grow a small number of plants for their own consumption.
Last December Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to remove specific parts and extracts of cannabis from its controlled drug list, and in February this year allowed them to be used in food and beverages. The amount of THC in a CBD product should not exceed 0.2% of its total weight, virtually eliminating the possibility of a high.
Cannabis products had already become a cottage industry in Thailand before they became non-offender, but their adoption by The Pizza Company – operated by the Thailand-listed Minor Food Group, a stock exchange subsidiary of Minor International – made them commercial big-time.
According to Panusak, Crazy Happy Pizza is available in all branches of the pizza company in Thailand, but sales have been down. It has faced several obstacles – it cannot be legally advertised or sold to anyone under the age of 12. He estimates that when the company ends its sales promotion on Tuesday, it will have to throw away about a fifth of the cannabis it receives. ,
“I don’t think the market is ready for cannabis products yet. We knew this from the start,” Panusak said. “We just wanted to be the first mover to launch something new and innovative in the market.” He cited Durian Pizza as another example of his company’s innovations, which included exotic and pricey tropical Asian fruits known for their pungent odor.
“We try to get some new content, anything that’s trending, and we use that and we want people to talk about it,” he said.
Associate Professor Willert Purivat, Dean of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn Business School, believes that using cannabis for marketing at an early stage can be effective, but business owners need strategies to make it work over the long term. .
“In general, people who try it wouldn’t expect to get high,” he said. “They just want to keep themselves trendy and take pictures to post on their social media to show they’ve tried something that was once illegal.”
He said that cannabis has sentimental value which is based on the core value of the product. “When people go to your restaurant, they should come for your food and service, not for the cannabis.”