Thailand’s flourishing cannabis culture to end as government seeks ban

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 6:03 PM

By Jorge Silva

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thodsapol Hongtong is enjoying a smoke with his friends at the “Green Party”, a venue where recreational cannabis enthusiasts meet in the Thai capital Bangkok to chat and have a good time. But it’s a pastime that may be coming to an end.

The 31-year-old influencer who runs his own cannabis shop regularly touts recreational marijuana as good for the country’s economy on his online platform “Channel Weed Thailand”.

The booming cannabis sector could be worth $1.2 billion by next year, according to the estimate by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

“Where (else) in the world can we lie around on the beach and enjoy a joint,” Thodsapol told Reuters, taking a puff from his bong.

But the Thai government is looking to stamp out cannabis culture with a ban on its recreational use to be rolled out by the end of the year. Medical use will still be permitted.

Thai Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, in an interview with Reuters last month, described recreational marijuana as a “misuse” of cannabis that has a negative impact on Thai children and could lead to other drug abuses.

Recreational cannabis flourished in Thailand after the country became the first in Asia to fully decriminalise the substance in 2022, enabling a new public wave of weed appreciation culture.

Neon signs of cannabis leaf in multiple languages are highly visible on many street corners in Thai towns and cities, marking the tens of thousands of shops, spas, bars and gaming lounges where a variety of cannabis strains are readily available.

Many streetside shops in tourist areas sell smoking paraphernalia, while cannabis-related festivals became more common, like last year’s joint-rolling competition in the resort island of Phuket that drew in weed aficionados from around the world.

The Thai government’s draft law banning recreational use of cannabis will be up for cabinet approval later this month.

(Reporting Jorge Silva, writing by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Lucy Marks)