December 2 – 4, 2019
Central World Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
By Nayantara Bhat
After 12 years of the semiannual Infinity Ventures Summit, the 24th edition of the event brought together speakers and attendees from over 50 countries for three days of keynotes, networking, business matching, and more.
As always, the Summit included the signature IVS Launchpad event, inviting 12 selected companies to pitch their products for the chance to win a prize valued over ¥1,000,000 (around US$9,120). After making it through three rounds of elimination, the selected teams had six minutes onstage in front of a panel of entrepreneurs, investors, and past winners of Launchpad.
True to IVS’ promise to spotlight ‘avant-garde’ market trends, the 2019 Winter Summit’s second day featured a session discussing a burning topic: cannabis regulation.
Since the surprising royal decree early in 2019 that legalized cannabis for medicine and research in Thailand, various groups of stakeholders–politicians, medical professionals, and law enforcement to name a few–have been discussing the next steps in regulation. The IVS session, entitled ‘Awakening the Green Giant: Navigating Asia’s Cannabis and Hemp Regulations,’ tackled this topic in depth with insights from every part of the supply chain.
Thailand is one of a nexus of nations with strict drug laws. The Philippines and Indonesia both enforce the death penalty for drug trafficking, with notable cases like the Bali Nine heroin smugglers–two of whom were executed in 2015. Understandably, this regulatory shift has cannabis investors, growers, and distributors seeing dollar signs, but analysts caution that there are many regulatory hurdles ahead.
“The development of cannabis generally has a social stigma around the plant, and it has been this way historically since the opium wars, especially in this region,” said Kunal Sachdev, Regional Legal Adviser at law firm DFDL.
Despite this cultural legacy, proponents of the cannabis industry are still hoping that this is the first step on the plant’s path to becoming a Thai cash crop for export. Their cause is aided by a prominent political party advocating for full recreational legalization, which recently gained a significant vote in the governing coalition.
Nicole Godresse, Director of Emerging Markets at cannabis research and distribution firm Tilray, added her advice for startups for startups entering the cannabis arena: “Anybody getting into this, I would fly over to Canada and the US and see what people are doing, and see how creative and wonderful this industry is, and bring some of that back to Asia.” –NB