Kitty Chopaka is a long-standing and active cannabis activist and fighter in Thailand, dedicating significant efforts and contributions to advancing cannabis legislation and public education on cannabis. In addition to her advocacy work, she is also an entrepreneur and the founder, owner, and promoter of "Chopaka" (Licensed cannabis shop and ThaiFDA approved terpene flavoured gummy).
How long have you been active as a marijuana activist and how did you get started?
Since I would say starting July 2017. Yes. That was when I decided my starting point because that day was I talked to other people outside of my family or my friends about cannabis.
So, and that was just kind of how I got started. It was a stumble then fall and I still haven't managed to get out. So, from then was reaching out to an activist group and just wanted to help and then started going to meetings like, you know, seminars as an attendee, as a participant. And then it just kind of ended up being more involved because I don't know, it was just like, it was quite interesting. I wanted to learn more. I want to know more. I want to know why. Why it's illegal. Why it's illegal. Yeah.
So, you have the benefit from the cannabis.
I'm a user, but like I would say that I was looking at it more in business. And then when the business didn't answer the question, I looked at it in other ways. I want to understand more.
Like, how is it that something that seems to have a lot of demand, high price, but you're not really making any profit? Or why is it not feasible to make it work? And I, and within the journey, I slowly find as to why. I'm a user. And then like, and then legalization were happening all over the world. So, it was a trend, obviously. And because of that trend, it was a new innovative thing.
I, as an entrepreneur, always constantly looking for something new. And this is the new industry, new blow up. And hey, I as a user, why not?
Why do this thing, not just an ordinary participant, a store operator?
Why not? You will find that. As a user, I can't say that whether I'm a patient or I as a recreational user. It's different time of days, different day of weeks. One day will be for recreational, one day is medical. Or within one day, maybe the morning is medical and the evening is recreational. Or vice versa. So, let's just say that I'm a user.
And why? Because it seems really interesting. No one else was doing it. I happen to have the ability to communicate in different languages as well. So, it seems like I have more access to information than other people. If I have more access, but at the same time, if I don't have the knowledge to make sense of that information, I need to pass that on to someone who does. And then we can talk about it. So, it's just kind of like that.
And to me, information knowledge should always be shared freely. And it should be the truth. And it should be scientifically proven. It should have real and truthfulness in it.
至於為什麼，i dont bloody know。我還生活在這裡，我不喜歡看到不公平\不公正，不喜歡看到這些差距。不喜歡看到有些人有，有些人沒有。我不喜歡看到腐敗正在蠶食我們的國家。加在一起，大麻需要被合法化，以及去污名化。對於大麻使用者的污名依然存在著，我們正在為之努力。"因為他們抽大麻，他們是吸毒者，他們會接著使用海洛因....”
As to why? I don't bloody know. I'm still in here. I don't like seeing unfair. I don't like, you know, unfairness. I don't like seeing the disparity. How there's a difference between those who has and those who has not. I don't like how corruption is eating our country. And all of those happens to be the same thing that has to be fought for the cannabis to be legalized. And destigmatization. The stigma that's still there, we're still working on it. “ Oh, because they use cannabis, they are a druggy. Or they're going to use heroin.”
How to promote decriminalization|legalization process? petition? Protest?
Like, by participating. By being there when no one would. By transferring the knowledge from those who has it to those who needs it. It's a lot of lobbying, but I don't have the money. I lobby with knowledge. Because sometimes knowledge is more expensive or more valuable than money itself.
What kind of resistance did you encounter? family? police? public perception? Where is the greatest resistance? How to solve?
Yeah, family are very supportive. My children, my husband.
My mom, my dad. Like, you know, I kind of slowly moved them towards my side. Ah. So like, you know, you need to have a village behind you.
But I find that public perception sometimes can be quite demeaning. Like, you know, it's really harsh sometimes.
But at the same time, it only shows that they are afraid. And I can't be angry with them. Because they are only afraid of what they don't know. And...
You can only give them more knowledge. Constantly. Until they do eventually require them. Because you can't force people into learning about something.
There would need to be a time and a place where it's like, Oh, I need to know about this. Having that information there when they need it is probably more important than forcing them into like, No, you need to learn about this. Or you need to know about that. Like... The more you force people into doing something, the more they don't do it.
How to keep yourself enthusiasm and motivated, because this is not an easy job?
我有那種奇怪的癡迷，當我在這種癡迷的狀態中時，我會走到世界的盡頭，找到我需要找到的東西。就算是要走到地獄，我也要去。如果我要知道什麼，我就要知道，因為我想要知道。就是很癡迷。 I have that weird obsession. And when I'm on a weird obsession run, I will go into the ends of the earth to find what I need to find. Like you know, just... Until, go down to hell if it goes down there. Like you know, I will... If I want to know something, I will find it. Because I want to know. Like a very obsessive...
But at the same time, I don't feel tired. Everything's balanced out in our own way. How we manage our family, my work, my relationship, is... We talk about things. We very openly discuss stuff. And... We try with making sure that... Things get dealt with. So it's nothing routine.
I work in a very weird way. It pretty much starts at 6am and then I finish at almost midnight.
But in between. Like I will cook my kids dinner. I may be on the phone while I'm cooking my kids dinner. Or I would be like... I'll be doing so many things all at once. But all of those things bring me joy. I'm very happy. And it doesn't tire me out.
The only thing that usually tires me out is the things that I can't control. Which is like politics and like you know, how the economy is going. You can't control those things. But everything else I do, I really enjoy. So it doesn't get tiring.
所以你不會因為工作感到疲憊，因為你很享受。 So you don't need to force yourself to work because you enjoy it.
是的，我享受早上起床，開始期待今天我要試什麼花。這是每天的開始，然後我開始關心我們新的產品，最近我們在用大麻烘焙咖啡，我會品嘗大麻咖啡。這些都是很有趣的事情，不會讓我不想工作。然後我可能回去農場，have a tour 看看別人有什麼問題，我是否可以幫助。然後還有很多抗議，我參加了很多的抗議。然後我會和國家上的人開會，學習政策之類的事情。我的每天都不會是一樣，你永遠不知道明天會發生什麼，所有很有趣。
Yeah, like you wake up in the morning and I'm like, okay, so what flowers am I trying out today? That's like the start of my day. And then it's like, what product are we doing? Lately we've been roasting cannabis. Roasting coffee with cannabis. So we've been making coffee cannabis and we've been tasting that. Does that sound fun? Or sound really boring and like you don't want to work? It's all kind of really cool. And then I may go and visit some farms. And we'll have a talk as to like, oh how's things going? What type of problems do you have? Let's see if I can help with anything. And then like, you know,
there will be a protest. And I'll turn up at a protest. Or I'll be on meetings with people internationally who are like doing policies and things like that. So it's my day. My day to day is never the same.
And because of that, you'll never know what's going to happen tomorrow. So it's quite fun. But still, there's still like the whole business things that you have to do. But that's usually the time when there'll be times when I disappear from social media.
And that's usually like for about three days to a week. And I'll just be working. And those times will be like I'll cut off most meetings and what not to just produce work to then continue with the cycle. So it's quite fun. And I think that's the thing to continue with the cycle.
As a woman, will she be treated differently in this process, and will she have to work harder?
Definitely. Yeah. Usually you're either the only woman in a room full of men or the only woman in a room full of men and women but the other women are in a lower than the men. While I would not be put in that category, I would say jump in between the two different segments and groups.
But overall, a lot of the problem tends to not come from the inside the country but more from outside the country. Especially like the OGs of say the United States? Or the other side. I feel that it's because they don't think that a woman could know. Yeah. But I don't expect to be a know-it-all. I like to learn more from them but there is no point of expecting or think that we have no basic. Like you know, there's no need to talk down upon us. There's no need to talk slower. There's no need to use in vocab to make you sound more like you know what you're doing.
尤其沒有必要告訴我我有多好看，我自己知道我有多好看，而且這個行為非常的creepy。 他們會說，你做的真好啊kitty，blahblahblah，還有你好漂亮。我就呃，為什麼這個事情需要被說出來呢。（why does that fucking matter！）你長得帥不帥，這不應該重要，為什麼和其他男人聊得都是和主題的相關話題，為什麼到了我就是漂亮，或者試著教會這個女孩什麼。
And especially there's no need to tell me how beautiful I am. I know exactly how beautiful I am. And that is very creepy. Like they say, Oh, they go, oh yeah, you're doing such a great job, Kitty, blah blah blah. And then you're so beautiful. And I'm like, um... What does it matter to the... Yeah! Why does it fucking matter? You look handsome. It shouldn't matter. Why is it the topic that other men talks about is the topic of the conversation? Why when it's me, it's things that are visual or trying to teach that girl something. Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Come on, guys.
This is a funny story, I would say. I was in Europe. I was at a commission meeting or a conference. And I was the independent advocate. And I was talking about how I was in Thailand, what I do, how I promote safe and responsible use that ，I as a mother also really care about making sure that the children don't have access to it, to things they shouldn't have.
But it ended up being that because they thought I was 25, which is great, like the fact they thought I was 25, I was like, yay! I'm closer to... In a few years, I'll be 40.
I have two children. And it was under a marriage. Because they think, oh, you're 25, you have two kids. How old are your kids? 11. Oh, my God. And then they think that you're a teenage mom, and you do drug advocacy now, so obviously, teenage, addict, have two kids, and single.
But I'm married. I have two children. I support them. They go to a good school. We have income. Like, you know, it's like, hey! The judgment is always there when you're a female.
And when they know you're a mother. So from being female, they think that you're easy, that they can access you, they can touch you, And then when they know that you're a mother, then it's like, you're even easier than a bad mother. They just cannot believe you handle your life very well. And also, when they found out that I am a wife, they asked me the question of, does your husband allow you to do this? Like, you know, how does your husband feel about this? Does he smoke? And it's like, no, he doesn't. He's in a totally different in industry. He fully supports whatever I do. And does it matter? So it's like, there's always a question of, how does your husband allow you to do this? You just, you know, we don't even know half the time that you have a husband, unless we go over. And then they see, like, oh shit, she does have kids. Oh shit, she does have a husband. And everything is fine. Without a nanny.
So, like, do you think, like, women have to work harder in this industry to get the same respect as the man?
I think women has to work harder in most industries. Thailand, hopefully, they'll be more accepting. But, I don't know. I think they'll be more accepting. Because we always had one of the highest rates of women CEO in the country. Especially in the finance industry. A lot of the banks, the CEOs are ladies. And I do hope that cannabis is one of those industries where we're on the mark. Or at least, like, show other industries that there's more women with imposition than men. Because I feel that if it's only limiting to men within this industry, we're missing out on a lot more products.
Like, you know, like, not everyone wants to get, like, high, high. Yeah. And then, like, stone out of their face. Yeah So, none of that makes sense.
Any advice for female cannabis entrepreneurs so they can deal with the sexism of their male counterparts。
learn more about it. Like, learn, learn, learn about it to the point that you can, I know that ladies can be quite obsessive. So, like, use that power and learn as much as you can about it. You'll be able to answer back anything.
And at the end of the day, if you're not selling to men, then what's the point of proving to them? So, maybe you have to figure out who are your people and then work on those people and then grow it from there. Don't ever try to sell something to someone who are not your customer. It's just a waste of time.
I feel like when going out, like, in this industry, they more want to speak to the men. They don't speak the important thing to the women.
Oh, yeah. Yes. Go alone. That's what I did.
I don't even go to industry events with my husband. Ever. I've done that a few times. And it's like, they talk to him and he goes, you need to talk to her. Because I don't touch it. I don't know this stuff. Talk to her. And then he'll walk away.
So, I go alone. And I find that by going alone you have a different mentality. So the people think of you as like, because you're a woman alone, they do tend to look after you more. Or they think of you as a friend. Like, you know, a sister to come and visit. So it's a different feel. Because sometimes, you know, the problem with doing my trips and meeting growers sometimes is that if it's men with men and you know, they have a pissing contest you know, like who has a bigger... Yeah. So why, when you put the throw a woman in there, they're like, oh, we can't do that. So, you wanna see my flowers?
How can your identity help local brand stores solve commercial problems?
I help by sharing information. I help by being like a big sister. Be advising. Like advising and consulting the businesses. How to
work, how to grow. But they have to do it themselves.
And I have more than a few of those that we do support and also we support a lot of local. Our products only come from local. We actually worked out that for the flowers, our income for all of our income 65% goes out to the farms. So like we make sure that they have income but also they receive it legal money. So meaning like tax are paid on it. Everything is registered. Everything is like all proper and if they have not registered, we help them to get the things that they need.
what's the proposal for the government and the policy maker?
Right now we're doing it all over again since last year. Which is we're writing the act again which is stupid. The fact that we have to do like I've done it so many times it's not funny now. It's getting annoying. So we're doing it again. We're going to go all through Thailand and have public opinion of it and hopefully by the time election comes into place the government goes in. We then give this ready law to go into the government to go into parliament to then hopefully get re-deliberated but like not so much because it's been done like four or five times already.
Is it possible cannabis becoming illegal again ?
Nothing is impossible in Thailand. But I would think that it won't go back. We can't go back because everywhere else is moving forward as well. So if we decide to go back after people move forward we're going to miss out again. So it doesn't make sense. Doesn't make sense.
And what impact do you think the current legalization on the society?
I feel that the reason that cannabis and hemp which is part of cannabis to me it's the same thing. The reason that it did not make feasible sense in business is because it moved people away from consumption.
So because it answers to all your four basic needs it moves people away from buying more things or having more stuff. Say if you use hemp as a as a clothes say make into jeans it will last you longer than the current cotton. So you buy less. So it doesn't make sense for business. If you make hemp seed available protein, plant based protein like develop into some sort of a plant based meat, people will eat less meat. Which means less consumption. Less forest clearing. Less McDonald's. Maybe still more McDonald's but not the beef. So people consume less. Of the things that pollute us the most which is meat. Growing meat for eating. Cows and chicken all of those are very heavy polluters. And then if you use cannabis as medicine you use other medicine less. It can be used in place of paracetamol. A lot of migraine medication can be replaced with that. And you get out being healthier. You drink less alcohol. You slowly move away from nicotine. All of those things. And then say if you build a house with hemp. It will last you longer. Same thing. Consume less.
Hence it doesn't make sense for business. It doesn't make sense. But that's kind of where I would say what legalization it makes to. It can be scary for other industry owners.
How do you make profit on something that doesn't grow? Right now everyone's thinking about each year you have to have a growth. You have to grow more revenue. More this. More that.
How do you make business sustainable and able to still be profitable without that growth? Without trying to sell more.
That is maybe something that this would lead into. A new way of how we manage the world. A new way of how we manage society. And maybe a new way of how things are accepted or calculated.
（to be continued........）