Thai sticks and cannagars
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During the 1970s, the American cannabis scene discovered a new and revolutionary product originating from an exotic land: the Thai Stick. And while nowadays it might seem impossible, back then cannabis was a taboo subject in American culture, and very few people cultivated their own plants. In contrast, most of the weed they used came from the overseas market, particularly Central America and the Caribbean, but a large share of this marijuana cargo originated in Asia.
The explanation is simple: at the time, many hippies embarked on an adventure - that became known as the Hippie Hashish Trail - to visit some of the world's biggest cannabis and hashish producers, from Morocco to South East Asia, through countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, among others.
Naturally, drug-trafficking networks were soon established between all of these countries and the US as the cargo destination, mostly created by young American "tourists" with great entrepreneurial talent and very little interest in what could happen to them if they were caught.
Thailand was no exception. Its potent Sativa weed was already known and cherished by many Americans for its strong cerebral high. The army of tourists and Hashish Trail pilgrims was joined by a parade of dubious characters that had remained in the area after the Vietnam War, ex-soldiers who knew the Gulf of Thailand inside out and how to carry out covert operations of the likes of drug trafficking. Therefore, thousands upon thousands of kilos of hashish and weed were hauled from Asia to the United States during that decade, but one product stood out among the others for its massive potency and became famous throughout the country: the Thai Stick.
What is a Thai Stick?
Broadly speaking, a Thai Stick is a sort of "marijuana kebab" made with a thin bamboo cane of about 25-30cm long (similar to a Chinese chopstick), and covered in high-quality pressed buds. After pressing the weed to make it stay attached to the cane, sometimes it was wrapped with fresh leaves, the same way cigars are made, and other times it got secured by a thin strand of cannabis fibres.
Rumour has it that Thai Sticks were soaked in opium (something that most reliable sources deny), while others claim that cannabis oil was used to increase their potency... What does seem certain, according to the trusted records of the time, is that their potency was unparalleled to any other product.
People who tried the authentic Thai Sticks confirm that the effect was extremely high, what we call a one-hit smoke. However, an interesting fact that makes you think they might have been coated in some other substance, many of these accounts describe the effect as very physical, the type of high that can get you couch-locked after just one puff, which is a little bit odd considering that Thai cannabis was known - and still is - for its intense cerebral high and strong stimulating effect.
Either way, every American stoner from the 70s was aware of the famous Thai Sticks, and not just because of the unusual way in which they were presented. The quality of the buds was excellent, the best Thai weed of that time, and very soon it could be found in every corner of the country where people used to deal in cannabis. While the price was high, the sensations they induced were unique, and as it's often the case, the product got surrounded by a legendary aura that made it even more tempting to the public.
Nevertheless, and similarly to what went on in other cannabis-producing countries such as Afghanistan, the quality of the product declined during the second half of the 70s, partly due to the high demand and partly to territorial and armed conflicts. The buds used to make Thai Sticks were no longer the best from the harvest, the drying process was poor on many occasions, and their potency had nothing to do with that of the first few years, after their "discovery" by the western world. In addition, when the Vietnam War finished, the number of Americans that returned from these lands dropped considerably, and this also had an impact on the near-disappearance of the product.
How do you make a Thai Stick?
We know very little of the traditional way of rolling Thai Sticks. Some theorists speak of decades, while others claim they could be centuries old, something that, bearing in mind the preparation system, it’s very possible. In fact, the only thing you need is a cannabis plant, as the bamboo cane can be replaced by a branch of the very same plant you get the flowers from. Let's see in detail how to make them:
Materials required for making Thai Sticks:
- Buds from your favourite strain (preferably not too compact)
- A few fresh cannabis leaves
- A thin cannabis stem (or bamboo cane)
- Cannabis oil or warm sugary water
- Hemp string
- Parchment paper
1. The first step involves soaking the cannabis or bamboo cane in cannabis oil or sugary water. This way, the action of attaching the buds to the stick will be much easier, as the oil behaves like glue. Needless to say, if you use an oil like BHO or Rosin, the end result will be much more potent. The fluffier the buds, the better they'll stick to the stem, and the resulting Thai Stick will be even much greater.
2. Start sticking the buds to the cane, leaving a little more than 1cm of free space on each end. The next step consists in tying everything up with the hemp string. Starting on one end, wrap the bud-covered stick tightly with the string from top to bottom. It's very important that your Thai Stick has the same width along its entire length, to enable air intake when you decide to smoke it.
3. Wrap the whole thing in parchment paper and let it sit for 1-2 days in the refrigerator to get the right consistency.
4. After the recommended time, take the package out of the fridge, remove the parchment paper, and carefully unwrap the string. You should do this with great care to prevent the buds from becoming detached.
5. Now it's the moment of wrapping your Thai Stick again, but this time with fresh cannabis leaves, which you should have washed well beforehand. Coat the buds with the oil or sugary water and carefully wrap the Thai Stick in the first leaf. Keep coating and repeating the process until you have used 3 leaves, always adding your "glue" between layers.
6. Wrap everything in parchment paper once more and heat it in a pan or a hot plate for a few seconds. This will fuse all the elements, melting the oil and sealing all the layers, so the air intake will be perfect.
7. The next step involves curing your Thai Stick, which can be done in a number of ways. Whatever method you choose, the first thing you should do is remove the parchment paper, wrap the Thai Stick in the string once more, and cover it again with paper. After this, you can place it in a plastic bag and bury it underground for a few weeks or vacuum-seal your Thai Stick for a few days. But in order to avoid mould issues and ensure consistent curing, it's best to put it back in the fridge for 3-4 days.
8. Once cured, if you decided to do it (those who can't wait tend to skip step 7), you only have to carefully remove the string and stem, and enjoy your Thai Stick!
Cannagars, the revival of a 70’s classic
Thanks to a combination of several factors, such as cannabis legalization in different countries and the emergence of social networks, Thai Sticks have experienced a dramatic revival in recent years, though now they are mostly known as Cannagars, a wordplay with the terms “cannabis” and “cigars”. While they are the same in theory (a cigar made entirely of cannabis), modern techniques are somewhat different from the traditional ones, like using extracts such as Rosin or BHO (Butane Hash Oil or Butane Honey Oil).
Thai Sticks can also be made with cannagar moulds to simplify the process, since you’ll just need to fill the mould with the buds (sometimes after using a grinder), press them, and de-mould the weed cigar, which will then have a perfect shape. From this point on, continue in the traditional way, smearing the cigar with cannabis oil and wrapping it in fresh marijuana leaves.
In countries where marijuana is legal, these Cannagars can be purchased without problems, and there are several companies that sell them, such as Leira, La Plume Rose, Golden Bear and Las Vegas Cannagars. Each of them offers several types of cannagars, from small 3g to large 12g cigars, and even special editions made with 24K gold rolling papers... A luxury not suitable for every budget!