“Cannabis” is a high-value cash crop with immense benefits in medicine, health, nutrition, and beauty. As soon as the Thai government had given the green light, Chulalongkorn was ready to join hands with the private sector and concerning government agencies to accelerate the research and development of a vast assortment of cannabis products.
Since the Thai government has legalized medical cannabis, many institutions of higher education with full potential have gone full steam ahead with the research. Chulalongkorn University has established the “Chula Cannabis and its Natural Substances (Chula C.A.N.S.) Research Cluster with expert faculty members from various fields, as well as the first and only Drug Dependence Research Center in the country which is certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Drug Dependence.
According to Asst. Prof. Dr. Rungpetch Sakulbumrungsilp, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, unlike the present in which many facets and aspects of cannabis are being studied in addition to the work of Chula C.A.N.S., very little research on cannabis has been carried out during the 10 years before its legalization. There are also many joint research projects, for instance, the Faculties of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Dentistry which are jointly developing cannabis in dental drugs such as topical antiinflammation ointment for mouth ulcers. Other faculties are interested in treating neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, etc.
Find investment partners and move ahead
Companies such as Bloom Medica Co., Ltd. invested with Chulalongkorn through the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Faculty of Science to jointly develop quality cannabis species to produce extracts and use in medicine, health supplements, and skincare products. To begin with, studies are being done on producing an extract that is active against coronavirus from the Thai cannabis genus which contains a higher psychoactive compound THC than the foreign varieties. The cannabis plantation project is located in Kui Buri District, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.
Most recently, the Drug Dependence Research Center, College of Public Health Sciences, in collaboration with Thonburi Healthcare Group Public Company Limited has developed a cannabis variety suitable for medical use. Moreover, support has also been given to the establishment of a medical-grade cannabis extraction plant with comprehensive upstream to downstream production and distribution technology.
A strategy to support Thai agriculture
A pilot project of greenhouse cannabis cultivation is being operated outside of the Chula campus in Saraburi province by the Drug Dependence Research Center, College of Public Health Sciences, to enhance research and propagation of quality medical cannabis. Work on breed development to suit the local climate and classification of different species in Thailand are also being carried out.
Prof. Dr. Chitlada Areesantichai, Deputy Dean of College of Public Health Sciences, and Director of the Drug Dependence Research Center explained that the plantation of over one rai (1,600 square meters) on Chula’s land is being operated with meticulous quality control. We use the seeds that have been cleared from legal prosecution by the Criminal Court and grown organically free from chemicals. We only use organic fertilizer and unique organic pest repellents developed by the Center.
“The main goal of the pilot greenhouse is to produce the highest yield of quality cannabis extracts. We divide the project into 3 systems: 1) In-house cultivation with humidity, temperature, and external light control; 2) Semi-closed or Greenhouse cultivation with screens to prevent insects, ventilation, and exposure to natural light; and finally, an open or Outdoor system with CCTV for security” said Prof. Dr. Chitlada.
In addition, the project also organizes one-day training for local farmers to experiment with organic farming techniques starting with the first group at the end of April 2021.
Cannabis Ice Cream – health food
The use of cannabis in cooking has been around for a long time, but the question of the appropriate amount that will not post health hazards is a matter for study and research. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has funded the Drug Dependence Research Center to research the safe use of cannabis in food ingredients.
Chula Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences has expanded on that research to create “cannabis ice cream” by using the leaves of CBD Charlotte’s Angel variant that are leftover from the research cluster project.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sornkanok Vimolmangkang, Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Chair of Chula C.A.N.S. Research Cluster said that the cannabis ice cream is a model of cannabis-derived products that has a standardized quality control different from food containing cannabis in the general market.
“Chula’s cannabis ice cream comes in 3 flavors: pure cannabis; cannabis with hojicha green tea; and cannabis with matcha tea. Both hojicha and matcha green tea already smell like cannabis, so when mixed, they are a perfect blend,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sornkanok. The ice cream-making process starts from the fermentation of raw materials that were grown with high-quality control. The secret is in the special leaves drying process that retains the unique cannabis aroma, before grinding it into powder and mixed into the ice cream.
Dr. Varalee Yodsurang, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences added that the cannabis ice cream has the controlled level of THC at 0.2 % as prescribed by the Ministry of Public Health. In addition, Chula has also restricted the age of buyers to be at least 18 years old and people with certain underlying diseases are advised not to consume the ice cream.
The first lot, a limited number of 500 cups of cannabis ice cream is available for sale at Healthplatz By Double T, Chula Pharmaceutical Sciences Alumni Association. In the future, Chula Pharmaceutical Sciences will offer an ice-cream-making course to the interested public as well.
Cannabis in art – “HAYAK” art toys
For the first time in contemporary art circles, cannabis waste has been made into art toys called “HAYAK” giant characters. Available for collection in 13 designs and 13 colors, HAYAK toys are a creation of an alumnus of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“The cannabis waste used to create the art toys is from confiscated marijuana discarded by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) that was already extracted, then tested for binding property, separated by texture (coarse vs fine), before being formed into toys,” said Worachai Matkit, a Chula Pharmaceutical Sciences alumnus, on behalf of Thai Together Co., Ltd.
The “HAYAK” art toys are available at the Chula Pharmaceutical Sciences Alumni Association in the form of Japanese “Gachapon” balls, or can be purchased at souvenir vending machines under the name “GANJAPONG HAYAK X CHULA C.A.N.S.”. For more details, visit Facebook Page: HAYAK.