A brave new era is underway in Thailand as the country’s first legal cannabis cultivation facility is now up and running.

The outgoing Thai military government legalized medicinal marijuana at the beginning of 2019 in a bid to improve its popularity among voters. Elections are taking place next month as the junta-appointed parliament is making way for a civilian government, but prominent military figures aim to retain a great deal of influence and relaxing cannabis laws was a popular measure.

Now the Thai Government Pharmaceutical Organization has offered an inside look into the kingdom’s first-ever regulated cannabis plant. It is located just north of Bangkok, in Pathumthani province.

The team spent 10 million baht ($315,000) to turn a 100 sq. metre area of the facility into a growing area, and it aims to release the first 2,500 bottles of CBD oil by July. The next phase of the project involves investing 164 million baht ($5 million) in converting a further 1,000 sq. metres into growing areas as it ramps up production.

There is expected to be a thriving domestic market, but the real prize lies in exports. Thailand has introduced laws that prevent multinationals from seizing control of the industry, and it can now seek to become a major global player.

Public health minister Dr. Piyasakol Sakolsattayathorn admits Thailand is a decade behind the likes of Israel and Canada when it comes to expertise in this industry. But Thailand has a rich heritage when it comes to cultivating marijuana, and it is responsible for some of the world’s most famous strains.

The country is gripped by the build-up to next month’s election and Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who hopes to win 375 seats and form the new government, has put cannabis farming at the centre of his manifesto. He claimed that marijuana has no negative effects and decided to give it his full support, hoping to boost the economy by scaling up production of legal cannabis.

His party website features pictures of cannabis plants sprouting gold coins as ecstatic farmers watch on. Charnvirakul hopes to introduce a co-operative model whereby households can each cultivate six plants, and a central body will sell the dried flower on international markets. “Marijuana will be able to generate additional income to farmers because overseas the price is as high as 70,000 baht [$2,230] per kg,” reads the party’s website.