Review: ‘Highland: Thailand’s Marijuana Awakening’

Highland Cannabis Now Magazine

New documentary highlights cannabis culture in Southeast Asia.


Netflix recently released “Highland: Thailand’s Marijuana Awakening,” a documentary mini-series produced by Coconuts TV, a subsidiary of digital publishing house Coconuts, all about cannabis in Thailand. The online news and lifestyle publisher specializes in telling in-depth stories about what’s going on in Asia and chose to capture the evolving state of cannabis in a country known for severe punishments and looming social stigma against any form of the plant.

The documentary, named after a Thai cannabis magazine, is hosted by Sebastian Perry, who is also a producer for Coconuts TV. He travels through Thailand, talking with people who live there to get their perspective on the past, present and future of cannabis in their country.

The mini-series consists of three episodes at just 20 minutes each that focus on the origins of cannabis in the country, the slowly blossoming medical cannabis community and the emerging recreational scene in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Episode 1 opens up in the bustling city of Bangkok with a little bit of background and history lesson on the emergence of an underground cannabis culture in various countries throughout Asia — thanks, in part, to the U.S.-funded War on Drugs — despite the harsh punishments for possessing even a small amount of marijuana. Some of the strictest countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand can sentence up to 15 years on top on heavy fines and property seizure for anyone caught possessing cannabis. Of course, corruption in law enforcement means that some people can get themselves out of trouble with hefty bribes, but the risk is still high.

In next episode, Thai doctor and author Somyot Kittimunkong talks about his groundbreaking book “Cannabis is Medicine for Cancer.” After the untimely death of his brother due to cancer — an illness that affects more than 100,000 annually in Thailand — he was compelled to research and write a book based on his findings. His book was the first of its kind within the medical community to acknowledge the efficacy of cannabis as a treatment and has inspired people to seek out various forms of cannabis including CBD oil for treatment despite the serious consequences.

The final episode explores the recreational scene in Thailand, which is extremely discreet and understandably guarded. Perry meets up with Johnny, a cannabis smoker who grows for himself, and Timmy, an edible maker who began with kief, to talk a little bit about the risks of what it’s like to be a part of such a clandestine community. There’s also some discussion about the tension between decriminalization and legalization, and which one would be most beneficial to the most people. Truthfully, though, the country is still struggling to legalize cannabis for medical research, so both of those possibilities are still unlikely anytime soon.

Breaking the documentary into short, succinct parts is helpful to keep from getting overwhelmed with facts and figure. It’s nice to have the information broken down into pieces that allows you to stop and start as you please without missing a beat. The most interesting part of the documentary was the anecdotes from people who are a part of the cannabis community both in different ways from the tales of a former cannabis farmer named Mr. Boonyong in Phon Sawon to the Hmong community from the innermost mountainous regions of Thailand that makes their traditional wear out of hemp.

If you’re into cannabis and documentaries, this will most likely be right up your alley. Depending on what your focus is on within the industry, you can just put the mini-series on autoplay and let all three episodes roll back-to-back or just pick a single episode that interests you the most and go from there.

TELL US, what is your favorite show about cannabis?

K. Astre is a California writer with a global appetite for art, music and culture. She fuels her creativity with tea, yoga, meditation and, of course, cannabis.

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