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 high 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. So 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.
So Where Did All The Thai Sticks Go?
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.
Dilution of the native cannabis populations by strains from further west (e.g., Pakistan and Afghanistan) also served to whittle away at the Thai Stick’s legendary status.
Marijuana—though heavily policed—was still a popular drug and growers wanted to keep the supply flowing. Traditional Thai strains took a long time to mature so strains were brought in from other regions to supplement the Thai stocks. These imported strains matured earlier but were less psychoactive than the original plants. If someone managed to get their hands on a Thai Stick during the years after 1975, the bud used was, though still of high quality, less mind-blowing than the original. This likely contributed to the Thai Stick’s decrease in popularity, and eventual demise.
Production Moves Indoors
The growth and improvement of the indoor growing process in the United States also meant that the marijuana supply chain could be moved closer to home. Cannabis in the United States has been grown outdoors in warmer climates for a long time. But the temperatures, humidity, soil, surrounding flora, and native fauna are not the same as those found in Thailand. That means that strains that would flourish in Southeast Asia would struggle or even refuse to grow in the United States.
You could try to replicate the conditions indoors but, at that time, the technology just wasn’t there to make this a reality. So while the quality of the cannabis being produced wasn’t as good as the stuff that made up the Thai Sticks from Thailand, getting the bud to the consumers was a whole lot easier. This simplification in the supply chain had a huge impact on the types of strains that were readily available to consumers across the country.
How To Make Thai Sticks
What You’ll Need
- Nugs of your favorite strain.
- Small bamboo stick or plant stem (chopsticks work great too).
- Hemp string
- Hash oil (can substitute with sugar water)
- Washed leaves from a growing MJ plant (picked after step 2)
- Parchment paper
First, separate the fluffiest buds from the rest of your stash. The fluffier the nugs the better because they are easier to pack and compress in the next step.
You might think you should go for the densest buds you can find in order to make things more intense. Wrong! Really dense buds can make the smoke too harsh. No one wants that.
Coat the stick of your choice with hash oil or sugar water to make it slightly sticky. We like bamboo skewers because they come in various sizes, have a point (which can be useful at various stages), and don’t change widths from end to end. You could also use metal skewers in a pinch.
Chopsticks work well, but they often get bigger toward the top which can make your Thai Stick look weird. I know, “Who cares how it looks,” right? But presentation is an important part of every smoking experience.
Once you’ve chosen your stick and coated it with hash oil or sugar water, bind the buds to the stick using the hemp string. At the end of this step, your Thai Stick should look something like this.
When you’ve completed step 2, you’ve ready for the most difficult part of this whole process: waiting. Thai Sticks take a long time to produce and you’ll be waiting at least a day at various points during production so get used to it now.
Before you start twiddling your thumbs, wrap the “cigar”–stick, bud, and hemp string–in parchment paper and store in the refrigerator for a few days or until the nugs solidify into one piece.
When a few days have passed, or when you just can’t stand it any longer, carefully unwrap the hemp string from the stick. This is where the coating of hash oil or sugar water comes in handy. If you didn’t use enough, the buds will fall off the stick when you unwrap the string. That’s why it’s better to err on the side of caution and use just a bit more.
After you’ve removed the hemp string, coat the bud stick with a light layer of hash oil or sugar water and then wrap the whole thing in the washed leaves from a growing MJ plant.
At this point, some Thai Stick producers suggest that you re-wrap the string and replace the whole thing in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours. That’s certainly an option, but, ultimately, you’re going to need to wrap the Thai Stick in three layers of washed leaves. That means an extra three days of waiting.
To speed things up, after you’ve applied the first layer of leaves, add another coating of hash oil or sugar water. Then, apply a second layer of leaves. Repeat this process one more time for a total of three layers of cannabis leaves.
Regardless of how many leaf layers you apply, rewrap the stick in parchment paper and warm it on a hot plate or in a pan for a few seconds. This step warms the oil and allows it to spread under the leaves and permeate the bud. It also helps make a perfect seal between the layers of leaves.
When you’ve finished heating the stick, rewrap the cigar in the hemp string and parchment paper, place it in the refrigerator, and let it cure in the low temperatures.
Informational Interlude: What Is Curing And Why Do We Have To Do It So Much?
Curing is the process of preserving and flavoring perishable food materials. In this case, marijuana. One important part of curing is that it keeps the cannabis from rotting and decaying before you can use it. In the case of the Thai Stick, the curing process helps remove the water, hardens the hash oil or sugar water, and makes all the different layers into one solid unit. Curing also helps smooth out and improve the flavor of the Thai Stick so that it’s not such a harsh smoke.
Methods vary here with some experts recommending that you put your completed Thai Sticks in a plastic bag and bury the whole thing 3 feet under the ground for a month. Curing the whole thing in this way creates the smooth taste that is typical of the Thai Stick.
If you don’t want to wait a month, you can vacuum seal your Thai Sticks and let them sit for a week.
If you don’t want to wait a week, some suggest you just go ahead and smoke them. We suggest you try all three ways to see which you prefer. Instead of making one Thai Stick all the way to completion (i.e., ready to smoke) which can take a week to a month depending on the method you choose, start three or more sticks and try each of the different options for step 8 at the same time.
So after step 7, you should have at least three sticks. Take one and bury it in the ground according to the first method above. Then, vacuum seal the second stick according to the second method above. After you’re finished with the first two sticks, smoke that third stick as a reward for all your hard work.
A week later, you can unseal the second Thai Stick, smoke it, and compare it to the one you smoked previously. Which do you prefer? Is one smoke smoother than the other? Is one more potent that the other? Feel free to make notes.
Then, when the first Thai Stick has been in the ground for a month, dig it up, smoke it, and compare it to the other two. Can you taste a difference? Can you feel a difference in the high? Which of the three do you like better? Answering those questions can help you decide which method to focus on going forward.
However long you choose to wait before smoking, be sure to unwrap the hemp string and remove the stick before smoking.
This is an important step to remember because things can get very difficult if you choose to ignore it. For one, the string isn’t going to burn at the same rate as the marijuana underneath. That can cause problems and make your smoking experience less than enjoyable.
For another thing, you absolutely have to remove the stick from the middle of the roll or you won’t be able to smoke it. The stick, like the string, is much denser than the cannabis material around it. That means that the stick won’t burn at the same rate–if at all. On top of all that, if you don’t remove the stick, airflow through the Thai Stick will be restricted making your date with Mary Jane even more difficult. We know you’re in a hurry, but don’t skip this last step or you’ll be left wondering what all the hype is about.
For reference, your completed Thai Sticks should look something like those in the image below. Want to watch the process in action, here’s a great video with instructions. Enjoy!
One last bit of advice before we let you go: make multiple Thai Sticks at one time or start producing one a week until you have enough. Putting these cigars together can take quite a bit of time from start to finish, and we already know that waiting is the hardest part.
So, if you’re starting from scratch in May (for example), roll however many you’re going to need for June (one a week?). Let them cure in the ground during May. Then, when you dig up that first batch, produce another batch for July and bury them to cure while you smoke your first batch in June. That way you’ll never be without this novel method for getting your ganja on.
The Rebirth Of Thai Sticks
Thai Sticks are making a comeback in recent years as smokers rediscover what a pleasurable experience they can be. If you don’t want to make your own as demonstrated here, ask at your local dispensary. They might be able to hook you up.