Above a restaurant in the Silom area at one of Bangkok’s new cannabis dispensaries, Kajkanit “Gem” Sakdisubha is one of the many still struggling with disbelief.
“It’s still hard to believe that it’s happening,” said the 30-year-old co-owner of cannabis lab Taratera, who also happens to teach cannabis health sciences at Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University — Thailand’s first and still only bachelor’s degree program in cannabis health sciences.
Despite studying architecture, Gem got into cannabis seven years ago to help his father, a doctor, overcome colorectal cancer. Back then, cannabis was illegal and still held to a negative social taboo.
With chemotherapy came the usual severe side effects, so they decided to import weed seeds and plant their own. To reduce the pain of the side effects, Gem’s father smoked weed and took drops of sublingual oil.
“My father self-prescribed it,” Gem said. “After he died, my whole family became more open-minded and showed support toward cannabis use for medicinal purposes.”
At 11am on Friday, The Dispensary by Taratera opened its mint green doors to welcome customers who walked in to smell strains such as Pineapple Express or Gorilla Glu and – if they liked – take them home.
On Taratera’s counter and the shelves behind it sit jars of buds ranging from THB400 to THB800 depending on the strain and quality. The biggest glass jar is filled with Painkiller, an indica-dominant strain popularly used for treating chronic pain.
The most popular, however, would be Pineapple Express – described as a daytime smoke due to its “uplifting” profile – and Gorilla Glu, which is best taken before bedtime. Both sell for THB600 per gram.
The buds are from farms across the country.
The dispensary was among the first to open in Bangkok after cannabis became legalized on Thursday, much like Highland Cafe and Sukhumweed. Fully delisted as a controlled substance, weed can be bought, sold and consumed without consequence. Controls remain on the production side, and creating extracts such as hashish or oils is effectively forbidden, as they cannot exceed a THC content over 0.2%.
While using marijuana is now allowed, health officials, namely Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, have repeatedly emphasized that cannabis should be used for “medical purposes” and strongly encourages people to consume it with a “good conscience. But those are just sincere suggestions, and the effective result is the same: It is fully legal to smoke – just don’t bother the neighbors, as under updated regulations, repeat offenders who create a public nuisance face up to three months in jail and a THB25,000 fine.
Gem, given his background in cannabis education at the world’s first “cannabis university,” Oaksterdam University in the U.S. state of Colorado, said he respects Anutin’s position.
When the shop opened on the first day, Gem urged his customers to “please use it for medical purposes as possible” – but only after it was bought and paid for.
There are only two items sold at his dispensary: flowers and rolling papers.
“No matter if weed is being used recreationally or medically, I think it offers medical benefits. People can get medical benefits through smoking too,” he said, referring to people who suffer insomnia or backaches.
Because there are not yet any regulations in place – not even an age limit – dispensaries are left to set their own rules for now, according to Pasit “Pong” Chulasata, another shop co-owner. At The Dispensary by Taratera, customers may be asked to show ID to prove that they are over 20.
The Dispensary’s current location is temporary and will close after September, after which they plan to relocate a few kilometers away to the Langsuan area.
The Dispensary by Taratera is located inside the Woofpack Building (above the Meatchop Butcher & Spirits restaurant) in Soi Sala Daeng 1. It’s open 10am until 7pm every day. For more information, call 063-9798686.