BANGKOK. This month, one of Thailand’s largest fast food chains is promoting its Crazy Happy Pizza, an inconspicuous product topped with a cannabis leaf. It’s legal, but it’s not going to get high.
Trail veterans who are familiar with the legendary pizzerias in neighboring Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, which offer potent marijuana as an additional condiment, may feel outright duped.
“Of course they can’t get high,” Panusak Suensatbon, general manager of The Pizza Company, said in an interview this week. “It’s just a marketing campaign. and you can try cannabis, and then if you have enough, you might fall asleep a little. “
The Crazy Happy Pizza is a mix of fillings reminiscent of Thailand’s famous Tom Yam Guy soup, with a deep-fried cannabis leaf on top. Cannabis is also added to the cheese crust, and there is shredded cannabis in the dipping sauce. A 9-inch pie costs 499 baht (about $ 15). Customers who prefer a homemade variety can choose their own toppings for a 100 baht ($ 3) surcharge for two or three leaves of cannabis.
The cannabis plant was used for two main purposes: as hemp for making ropes and clothes, and as an intoxicant known as pot, ganja, and dagga.
In recent years, a mid-range product of sorts has emerged: cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical found in cannabis that can be processed into what is touted as a cure for all diseases. CBD can be separated from tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – a chemical in cannabis that makes marijuana high.
CBD has legitimized cannabis-based products based on the mysticism of marijuana without breaking the law or raising serious health issues. This industry is booming, especially in the United States.
Recreational marijuana is still banned in Thailand and can bring you fines and time in jail, even though drug laws have been liberalized over the past few years. Cannabis is regulated for medicinal use and individuals are allowed to grow small amounts of plants for their own consumption.
Last December, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to remove certain parts and extracts of cannabis from its list of controlled drugs, and in February this year allowed their use in food and beverages. The amount of THC in a CBD product should not exceed 0.2% of its total weight, which virtually eliminates the possibility of getting high.
Cannabis products became a handicraft industry in Thailand before they were decriminalized, but their introduction by The Pizza Company, operated by Minor Food Group, a subsidiary of Minor International registered in Thailand, is bringing them to the commercial market.
According to Panusaka, Crazy Happy Pizza was available at all The Pizza Company branches in Thailand, but sales were weak. It faced a number of disadvantages – it cannot be officially advertised or sold to anyone under the age of 12. When the company wraps up its promotion on Tuesday, he estimates, it will have to dump about a fifth of the cannabis leaves it purchases.
“I don’t think the market is ready for cannabis products. We knew this from the very beginning, ”Panusak said. “We just wanted to be the first to bring something new and innovative to the market.” He named durian pizza, which includes exotic and expensive tropical Asian fruits known for their pungent smell, as another example of his company’s innovation.
“We are trying to get some new ingredients, everything that is trending, and we use it, and we want people to talk about it,” he said.
Associate Professor Wilert Purivat, dean of Chulalongkorn Business School in Bangkok, believes that using cannabis for marketing can be effective initially, but business owners need strategies to make it work in the long run.
“In general, people who try it don’t expect to get sick,” he said. “They just want to stay in fashion and take photos to post on social media to show that they’ve tried something that was once illegal.”
He said cannabis has emotional value based on the core value of the product. “When people walk into your restaurant, they should be coming for your food and services, not cannabis.”