Cannabis and its consumption is a pretty simple industry. It hasn’t lost or gained much since its use was first mentioned in writing by Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2753 B.C.E. That’s because all you really need is the weed itself and a flame with which to burn it. Easy, right? Of course, cannabis consumption can also be as elaborate as the legendary thai sticks on which this article is based. The nice thing about marijuana is that the process is pretty much entirely up to you. Simple or complicated—the choice is yours.
Down through the years, new methods for consuming cannabis have been added to the standard repertoire. As the use of cannabis spread, the bong and the joint became the go-to ways to unleash the higt that cannabis contains. More recently, dabbing and vaping have grown in popularity. But between the bong and dabbing, there really isn’t that much to talk about.
So while the marijuana industry hasn’t innovated much during its (at least) 4769-year history, it hasn’t lost much either. Sure, quite a few strains have probably been lost to the ravages of time, but it’s not like the music and video industry whose technology has been created and replaced in a relatively short period of time.
That could change now that cannabis consumption, and the industry that supports it, is legal in one form or another in twenty-nine states. Demand is fueling incredible growth and cannabis revenue is now measured in billions (yes, billions) of dollars annually. With this much money involved, and with more and more entrepreneurs getting involved in the burgeoning marijuana trade, we’re likely to see profound changes in products, methods, and processes in the coming years. But that’s the future.
The one exception to cannabis culture’s past and current stability is the rise and fall of the Thai Stick. “The what?” you may ask, and you’d be correct in your confusion. The Thai Stick is not as well-known as the joint, the bong, or even the vape pen, but is still a great way to get plenty high and while away a few hours (or a whole day).
Let’s take a few minutes and learn all we can about the Thai Stick past and present.
What Is A Thai Stick?
A Thai Stick in its most basic form is the buds of seedless marijuana skewered on a stem. Other than the skewer, this isn’t that much of a variation from the joint. Soo what makes the Thai Stick so special? The next few steps and the addition of some novel materials.
This swag shishkabob is then wrapped in fibers from the stalk of the marijuana plant to keep it all together and cured to remove moisture. Later, Thai Stick makers started using bamboo instead of stems and hemp string (known as “rasta hair”) instead of plant fibers. Some Thai Sticks even contain hash oil for an even more groovy experience. It’s these materials and this process that creates an extra-large cigar made completely of cannabis material that can then be smoked for a truly outrageous high.
We’ll get more into the details of how to make one of these monsters later, but for now, let’s look at the history of the Thai Stick and see why it disappeared for a time.
As the name suggests, the Thai Stick originated in Thailand where it probably had a long and storied past. Western culture was exposed to the Thai Stick starting in the late 1960s when soldiers were sent to Southeast Asia to battle Communism in what would later become known as the Vietnam War. The Thai Stick had a significant impact on these impressionable young men–many of whom may have never been exposed to cannabis before. And who can blame them for latching on to the marijuana they found in Southeast Asia? Whatever it takes to get through such a difficult situation.
Those same soldiers were later rotated back to the states for a break or because of injuries. After making the trip back, they told stories of this potent spliff and even brought back samples to use or sell. This was the beginning of the pipeline that supplied the United States with Thailand’s most important export.
Because they brought on a truly righteous high, rumors abounded that Thai Sticks were dipped in opium or hash oil. The more widely accepted explanation for the potency of the That Stick is a combination of the strains used and the climate in which they were grown.
China and its environs (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam) were pretty much the cradle of the cannabis plant so Thai growers had decades, if not centuries, to cultivate seeds from the strongest plants. This made the strains extremely potent. Couple that with Thailand’s high temperatures, rich volcanic soil, and long growing season, and you’ve got a recipe for strains the likes of which the West had never experienced. This potency, no doubt contributed to the stories and legends that swirled around the Thai Stick like the smoke it produced.
Whatever the reasons for its potency, this novel method for smoking weed(at least by Western standards) was popular for about a decade but then seemed to dry up and disappear leaving just the joint and the bong in its stead.
A number of factors contributed to the demise of the Thai Stick. Chief amongst those factors was the end of the war in 1975. The movement of troops between the U.S. and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam years was the primary means of export between the growers in the East and the smokers in the West. When that link in the chain disappeared, so too did the presence of the Thai Stick in the states. All that was left was the stories soldiers told and the legend those stories created.
Another reason for the demise of the Thai Stick was stricter policing of the cannabis used to make them—both in Thailand and in the U.S. In the early 1970s, the United States government adopted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which was part of a larger comprehensive drug abuse prevention and control policy. The CSA classified marijuana in a category (Schedule 1) along with heroin, LSD, and methaqualone. This made the use and distribution of cannabis a more serious offense than it had once been.
Stricter policing at home translated to stricter policing abroad and Thailand eventually cracked down on cannabis production and consumption as well. The crackdown at both ends meant that the usual potent bud natives used to create the Thai Sticks was no longer as readily available.