The joints being passed around were larger than the largest Burmese cheroots as people crowded the San Francisco rapper as he celebrated his American weed brand’s arrival to Bangkok.
Scores of people waited in line to step inside Bangkok’s newest – at least for a few hours – cannabis dispensary, which opened downtown on Saturday. While dozens of new dispensaries appear every day, this one was covered in the distinctive logo of cannabis giant Cookies, and rapper/founder Berner was there to vibe with his friends and celebrate its first store in Asia.
Inside the small, second-floor shop located a ways down Soi Ruamrudee – past three other dispensaries – colorful bags of branded cannabis strains were sold alongside shelves of merch.
Patrons piling in Saturday found that a premium brand comes with prices to match.
Fancy a Cookies-branded reusable water bottle? THB2,000. Smell-proof pouches were THB3,000. Trays for keeping one’s greens organized? THB2,000.
A strain of London Pound Cake or their signature Girl Scout Cookies sold for THB900 a gram. The most affordable strain, a fully Thai-engineered grow called Thai Loy, was THB500.
Cookies reps said all the weed is grown in Thailand by partners. Outside the shop, a QR code was plastered to the wall inviting producers to grow for them.
Earlier this year, one of the shop’s founders said they were working to import cannabis via Canada or Israel. That ended up not happening, and the store says all of its cannabis was sourced from domestic partners. That includes Sukhumweed Industries, whose founder has insisted he wants to safeguard the young Thai market from foreign dominance.
What about all the other Cookies-branded merch sold at other dispensaries? According to Cookies staffer Andreas, those are, unsurprisingly, fake. Rather than fire off cease-and-desist notices, he said it was expected and chalked it up to building brand awareness among Thai consumers
“We’re not trying to compete with other dispensaries, it’s really nice to see other dispensaries use the brand,” he said. “So now that our store is open, we want to ask the customers, ‘Wanna try the real deal?’”
The shop is not owned outright by Cookies, and the San Francisco-based company did not finance its construction. Rather, it’s the realization of a long-held dream by longtime Berner associate Josh Schmidt, who has longstanding ties to Thailand and is the vice president of a California-based cannabis firm with international ambitions.
Schmidt said he envisions Cookies Thailand as a “United Nations” of cannabis, where all the tribes worldwide can gather to share their best ideas, negotiate, and settle disputes. He said the company has about eight Thai employees.
So is Thailand a future market for Cookies to sell its American-grown weed? Schmidt said there were still too many legal uncertainties to predict. Indeed, a large cloud still hangs over the nascent industry as budding entrepreneurs wait to see what legislative action Thailand’s mercurial politicians end up taking.
But the aspirations are clear, given the shop’s backers.
The stated mission of Schmidt’s firm Natura, one of three partners, is “building the supply chain for the global cannabis industry.” Another partner, Golden Triangle Health, is a Thai cannabis concern co-founded by investor Tom Kruesophon, who promotes himself to Western companies looking “to drive entry into” the Thai market. The third partner is Joe Thawilvejjakul’s Great Earth International, which owns a diverse portfolio of food and beverage brands – and the property where Cookies Thailand opened.
It was on that property in an adjacent cigar lounge owned by Great Earth, Cohiba Atmosphere, that revelers crowded around the man-brand behind the brand: Berner, aka Gilbert Milam Jr.
Berner, who was vibing too hard to answer questions – the boys from Thaitanium had just charged in – has said in news releases that it was very special his first trip to Asia was to open up its first Cookies store.
“This store is beautiful and we are grateful for our partners on the ground in Thailand who helped make this possible. Thailand is an incredibly unique place full of incredible culture and opening up a Cookies store with the support of the country of Thailand, I am grateful for. I hope Bangkok is ready for an exclusive menu of fire genetics.”
On Saturday, he was surrounded by local partners hoping his success will rub off and a host of hopefuls from California chasing new cannabis horizons in Thailand.
William Frye, 42, who sold weed in northern California under the name Treez on Deck, said he left everything behind in California – ex-wife, grown children, home, work – to chase his dream of owning a cannabis shop in Pattaya.
He first came to Thailand in August when Cookies was originally supposed to open. When his money ran out, he was forced to return home but managed to fly back in time for Saturday’s opening. Through a mutual friend, he had met Berner, who he credits as a great influence in his life. He detailed all the shared biographical details he believes bind their stories, and said it was fate that led him to Thailand.
On Saturday, after Berner signed his arm with a marker, Frye went and had it permanently tattooed to his arm.
Thailand is the sixth country where Cookies says it has shops, and the Bangkok store was its 58th location. Schmidt said near-term plans are to open four Cookies Thailand stores in different locations.
Additional reporting Nicky Tanskul
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Californian William Frye’s cannabis brand as Teez on Deck, it was in fact Treez on Deck.