Thailand to Weed Out the Loopholes of Legalized Cannabis
While cannabis (Weed) has been legalized in Thailand for one month, recreational use and public access to marijuana are still gray areas.
On Bangkok’s infamous Khaosan Road, which is home to dozens of bars, restaurants and guest houses, MPs, district officials, police, and the press scrambled to inspect weed vendors that have sprouted up everywhere.
Khaosan Road in Bangkok is a renowned area for backpackers’ and only recently started to come alive following the pandemic.
Since legalization, pop-up weed trucks and smaller weed vendors have appeared selling different strains of marijuana. As a result, authorities have tightened controls, warning street vendors to obtain permits.
Weed vendors everywhere
Since the warning, no pop-up trucks or weed vendor stalls could be found. A district official told Chiang Rai Times that he could not confirm if cannabis products were still offered on Khaosan Road.
For the past thirty years, Mrs. Yada Pornpetrampa has worked at her food stall on the street. She said after the law changed on June 9, weed vendors were everywhere.
In her opinion, this development could damage the image of the street and Thailand as a whole.
“Not everyone comes to Khaosan Road for weed she said. It’s a destination for all types of visitors, including family tourists. Smokers’ behaviour disturbs others, as does the smell. It’s no different than public weed smoking.”
Mrs. Pornpetrampa is one of a growing number of Thais who find legal access to cannabis uncomfortable or troublesome.
To support its medical use and benefit from its economic potential, Thailand has removed cannabis from the narcotics control list for the first time in Asia.
There is a legal limit of 0.2 percent for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in products or food. This substance is responsible for giving marijuana its psychoactive effects.
Weed Hub for Bangkok
In prisons, over 4,000 cannabis-related charges were dropped due to marijuana no longer being classified as a narcotic.
However, another Khaosan businessman, Sa-nga Ruangwatthanakul, wants to see the road transform into a “Ganja hub” even with government support.
According to him, Khaosan’s reputation won’t change as long as THC levels remain below 0.2%, and buyers must be 20 years or older. Smokers must only smoke in designated areas.
There are some who don’t agree with Sa-nga’s idea. Khaosan sellers were not consulted on the plan.
Thai authorities said this week that Khaosan was surrounded by temples and schools, so such an idea would be impossible.
Akradej Chakjinda, a cannabis advocate, said the conflicting ideas stem from loopholes in the government’s strategy.
‘Medical cannabis’ policies favour only those factions that stand to benefit from the economic benefits, he said, adding authorities failed to discuss the possible side effects of legalization.
Price of Weed Skyrockets
After legalization, underground dried marijuana buds were priced at 900,000 baht per kg, a significant increase from 250,000 baht before.
“Irony will remain until the government admits that cannabis’ economic benefits also come from recreational use.”
However, reports about cannabis’ negative effects have sparked further public uncertainty and even fed into fears and biases against the plant.
The health authorities reported on June 14 that one man died of heart failure after consuming cannabis. The coverage, according to Akradej, was one-sided and did not take into account other health conditions he might have had.
In a recent statement, the Royal College of Paediatricians of Thailand and the Paediatric Society of Thailand warned children about the dangers of cannabis.
At least nine youths were hospitalized, including a 15-year-old male who became hysterical after smoking two joints and attempted to stab people with a knife.
Within a few days of the legalization, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul issued regulations regulating cannabis and hemp as controlled plants. The regulations restrict the use of these substances by anyone under the age of 20 and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
No Weed Zones
On June 15, Bangkok’s newly elected governor Chadchart Sittipunt declared all schools cannabis-free zones. Weed vendors without street licenses will be fined by district officials.
Since ganja is no longer a narcotic, police have not arrested sellers despite warnings that cannabis-related public nuisance charges can result in fines and/or imprisonment.
The police have also declared cannabis-free zones on their premises.
Currently, the Thai parliament is debating the Marijuana/Hemp Act, proposed by public health minister Anutin. A conclusion is expected within a few weeks.
The draft focuses on cannabis as an alternative form of healthcare and an economic plant. In addition to supporting new innovations in cannabis products, it discourages the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Meanwhile, marijuana advocates have developed their own draft. A cannabis entrepreneur, Kitty Chopaka, says the goal is to create a decentralized industry that is sustainable.
In the country, certain farms are granted government concessions to supply medical-grade cannabis parts, or they are run by large corporations.
A “people’s draft” would encourage local growers to develop their own plant strains and products. The local administrative offices will be authorized to manage revenues in their areas, whether from farming or tourism.
According to Kitty, public education about the pros and cons of cannabis is also necessary.
Cannabis users and non-users do not converse, she said. “Cannabis is now seen negatively, but other drugs are much more affordable, such as methamphetamine, which is sold for 15 baht per pill.
Cannabis users do not deserve to be mistaken for irresponsible when big business and political factions reap the profits from it. Some campaign for ganja to be listed as a narcotic again, but focusing on one particular substance does not solve social problems,” Kitty said.