Henrik Møller is a Carlsberg Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. Møller’s research interests are contemporary China, Asian borderlands, and highland Asia, with a focus on development, commodity-chains, inter-ethnic relationships, human-nonhuman relations, and cosmologies. His recent publications include “Jade and Guanxi in China: Material-Social Congruity and Contingency” (2023) and “Frictions and Opacities in the Myanmar-China Jade Trade” (2022). E-mail: henrikkloppenborg@yahoo.dk


Cannabis Cosmology and Intercultural Challenges among Taiwanese Growers in a Highland Village of Northern Thailand

Abstract: The decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand in 2022 has attracted foreign growers into a booming, but volatile cannabis market. This paper discusses the cannabis cosmology and the business challenges of two Taiwanese growers in northern Thailand. The paper first discusses how the cannabis growth cycle involves adjustment and timing of stimuli based on the interpretation of the plants’ responses. The Taiwanese cannabis growers, who are the focus of this paper, describe the plants as their children. Thus, the paper conceptualizes their activity as care work. Chanting Buddhist mantras to the plants and arguing that smoking cannabis affords them religious insights, they further posit cannabis plants as recipients and transmitters of religious animation. Secondly, the paper discusses how cultural differences posed challenges for the Taiwanese growers. They had decided to grow cannabis in a highland village of the northern highlands because the local population spoke Chinese and had historical links to Taiwan. However, failing to establish social relationships prevented them from tapping into the established distribution and sales channels. The paper conceptualizes the challenges of the Taiwanese cannabis growers as a form of human-nonhuman learning and interaction that demands ontological openness to alterity in its own terms. While their perception of the similarities between cannabis plants and human children made the Taiwanese growers adapt their care work to the plants’ responses, their approach to a new socio-cultural context, perceived to be similar to their own, led to challenges in adapting to cultural differences which affected their functional business relationships in the cannabis trade.
Keywords: cannabis, Thailand, intercultural communication, cosmology, alterity