Trying Cannabis for the First Time in Thailand

I am convinced that Thailand is one of the most progressive countries in Asia. Or the “bad boy” of the bunch, depending on how you look at it. And one of the things that really captured my interest this round was the prominence of cannabis-infused beverages and foods in and around Bangkok. Thailand decriminalized marijuana in June 2022, making it the first Asian nation to do so, and only the third in the world after Canada and Uruguay. Vendors have embraced the relaxing of rules as I saw weed-themed goodies everywhere when I visited this month, a stark difference to my first visit over 10 years ago.

While I had never tried cannabis before in any form, my interest in the plant had been growing after learning of its medicinal properties. And as I was eager to try it without having the need to smoke or vape, edibles presented the perfect opportunity.

Fire Bear cannabis tea series

My first foray into cannabis was a Fire Bear chameegun (clear tea). The tea had a slightly herbal taste to it, but other than that nothing was too different. There was definitely no psychoactive effects, but I felt like it maybe eased my stomach cramps a little (Vietnam had given me a parting gift of explosive diarrhea). I suspect the cannabis in it was CBD and probably quite minimal.

I decided I wanted to try something a bit more potent, maybe in food as well. Googling, I found, to my delight, an incredibly cool airplane-themed cafe in Bangkok that was also located close by Suvarnabhumi Airport.

I loved it so much, I dedicated an entire blog post to it here >> MD-82 Cafe: Maybe the Only Time Cannabis and Airplanes Mix.

Cannabis-infused drinks at MD-82 Cafe

At MD-82 Cafe, in addition to food, we ordered a 420 herb tea to share. I also got Forever Young, a lychee and pineapple mocktail, with one cannabis dose for good measure.

It was hard to know how much cannabis I actually ended up consuming because the plant had no discernable smell or taste in the beverages.

The herb tea had so many herbal flavours in it, I’m not sure which one was cannabis. It was refilled once for free. The lychee and pineapple mocktail, served in a bong, just tasted like an ice fruit slushie. It was garnished with a cannabis leaf, which I nibbled on out of curiosity and it tasted like nothing. The texture reminded me of a mint leaf, but with no minty sensation.

After returning to Japan, I messaged the cafe asking just how much cannabis they put in one dose, but couldn’t get a clear answer in terms of milligrams. They just said they use food grade CBD oil and cannabis leaf containing less than 1% THC. Given that I drank the whole mocktail and countless cups of tea, I estimate that I had maybe two to three doses.

To be honest, I had not expected the drinks to affect me in any notable way as I had not felt anything with the Fire Bear tea. But it appeared that the amount of cannabis was significantly higher here, as I definitely felt its effects a couple of hours later, including psychoactive ones.

My first experience getting stoned

The first thing I noticed an hour or so after consumption was that my mouth was becoming insanely dry. It was a dryness I had never experienced before, to the point I thought my cheeks were becoming numb. No matter how much water I drank, it wouldn’t quench my thirst. I didn’t have much time to think more about it as I had to bid farewell to my Dad and aunt and board my flight back to Tokyo.

I refilled my bottle at a water station near the boarding gate as I waited for my flight. At this point, beyond the cottonmouth I was not experiencing any psychoactive effects from the cannabis as yet.

I boarded the flight and it finally took off after being delayed by over an hour. Being a budget airline, there was no meal service or in-flight entertainment (although there was surprisingly free Wi-Fi). But as a red-eye flight, and feeling rather tired from a day of activity, I just wanted to rest anyway.

I closed my eyes, and drifted in and out of sleep. I’m not sure how many hours passed like that, but I slowly started to notice that I was beginning to feel disconnected from my physical body. It was as if my consciousness was somewhere in the realm between dreams and sensory reality, and it kept trying to float away like a balloon to the higher realm, with only a thin string connecting it back to earth. It felt like I had transcended to the higher consciousness that meditation seeks to achieve, like I was calmly watching my body and the world from a distance.

And I was uncontrollably sleepy. Like, it took genuine effort to open my eyes and move my limbs, so I mostly just gave up and let my mind drift to wherever it wanted. I felt drugged, which, in fact, I was.

A good side effect of this was that it also made me super mellow. The old geezer behind me kept playing with his tray, opening and stowing it for no reason, which of course sent vibrations through my seat. In normal cases this would have irritated me, but in my intoxicated state, even being irritated required too much energy. I just felt: whatever dude, who cares.

Combined with the movement of the airplane, especially during the descent for landing, I had some really weird out-of-body experiences.

Arrival in Japan

After the plane landed, I was still in my seat struggling to open my eyes and get up. I somehow forced myself and shuffled off the aircraft with everyone else. The moment I set foot out of the plane and felt everything swaying, with altered sensory perceptions, I knew I was stoned. I kept blanking out and not realising airport staff were talking to me. Or taking some time to process what was being said to me. This was a huge issue as being Japan, there were still COVID-19 checks in place and I had to go through a bazillion channels, being handed this form and that form.

I had already registed my pre-departure PCR test from Thailand that showed me negative, and the MySOS app had turned green. So I thought I would be good to go, no need for any arrival test or quarantine. But no, I was stopped because I had visited Vietnam, a “yellow” (medium risk) country, in the past 14 days, and only been vaccinated twice, not three times. FML.

They ushered me to a booth to take a saliva sample for a PCR test. Uh-oh. I literally had no saliva because the cannabis was suppressing my saliva production (remember the cottonmouth I mentioned earlier?). No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get enough to fill up to the black line in the tube. I don’t know how long I was there, trying to generate saliva, but I must have been there for quite a while, because I suddenly realised I was the only one left. And I heard one of the staff say “このお姉さんはどうなっているか確認しましょう” (Let’s see how this girl here is doing).

I turned and told her I was struggling to get enough saliva and asked if I could drink some water. She said no, but told me to imagine eating a lemon and massage the glands around my jaw. Then she kindly offered to give me a nasopharyngeal PCR test instead if I really couldn’t get enough saliva. I tried for a bit longer and was just barely able to reach the line, and the lady was like “good enough” and let me proceed.

I laugh at it now, but at the time I was concerned they would think I was trying to dodge the PCR test or something and stick me in a quarantine facility.

While waiting for the results to come back, I was fighting to stay awake the whole time. Every time I closed my eyes, my consciousness would just drift away to the dream world. My movements felt sluggish, as did my thought processes. My memory of that time is hazy, like it was all a dream. But I thankfully tested negative and somehow managed to stay lucid enough to make it through immigration, pick up my luggage and get on the train home.

On the train, it was too crowded to sit so I stood holding onto a bar. Even then, I couldn’t stop drifting in and out of sleep. When I forced my eyes open, I realised the lady I was standing in front of was looking at me concerned (or suspiciously) and was trying to see my eyes to check on me. I promptly moved away from her, just in case.

Home free

I couldn’t have been more relieved to finally reach home. I forced myself to unpack enough to throw my dirty clothes in the washing machine, take a shower and hang out the laundry. All while still high. Looking in the mirror, I saw I had the glazed eyes of a stoner and I was speaking like James Franco. I laughed at myself. Then I collapsed onto my futon and was out cold for a few hours.

After the sleep and toilet break, I was feeling a bit more sober but still extremely drowsy and struggled to focus my mind on anything. I also barely had any appetite, and just kept drinking as much water and tea as I could. Whenever the uncontrollable wave of sleepiness hit, I closed my eyes and was out almost immediately for an hour or so. I dreamt. It was actually kinda nice to be able to fall asleep so easily, now that I was in the safety of my home.

And unlike alcohol hangovers, I didn’t feel any nausea or headaches. Just sleepiness, like my consciousness wanted to escape from this reality to a higher one. Which I felt inclined to oblige, because who doesn’t want a break from this world at times, even when sober?

Verdict: Cannabis is pretty amazing

Although I am not encouraging it, I can now understand why people take psychoactive drugs.

The constant voice one has in their head? It was actually quiet when I was stoned, which lead to a strange sense of calmness and in turn, reduced anxiety. If your mind is not thinking up worse case scenarios or churning painful memories of the past, there’s nothing to be anxious about.

While I didn’t hit the sense of euphoria this time that some people describe, I truly felt I had found a shortcut to the transcendent state that meditation seeks to achieve, however transitory. I felt separated from my physical body, chilled out and able to fall asleep in an instant.

For a natural plant to be able to provide such relief, not only for mental health, but also conditions like chronic pain and insomnia? It’s a godsend for many.

Would I consume cannabis again? Most likely, but not on a regular basis as I don’t want to build a tolerance against it. The opportunity is unlikely to present itself anytime soon, anyway, as THC is not legal in Japan. (Although hemp and CBD, the non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant, is).

In terms of side-effects, for the most part they were enjoyable, but I did not like the cottonmouth and impaired cognitive function I had for hours at the peak. The latter may be part-and-parcel of the mellowness though. The fatigue/sleepiness also took a few days to clear, but that could have also been due to my body recovering from the flight and stomach issues.

tl;dr version

We have just began to scratch the surface of the medical and therapeutic uses for cannabis, and I strongly support the research going into it. It has great potential to provide natural relief for a range of ailments, if not abused. Recreationally, if I were to take anything containing THC again, I would be more aware of the dosage and its ratio vs CBD. Also, never again do I want to take it before a flight.

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