“What’s this, Sage ‘n Sour?” asks a Canadian named Jeremiah, pointing at a glass jar filled with weed. A budtender opens the lid. Jeremiah takes a whiff.
“Okay, I will have a joint of this one,” he says, nodding with approval.
Jeremiah then takes his newly rolled joint to a common area where other tourists are chilling, puffing, and passing.
He’s one of the many post-pandemic travelers who have helped the famous backpacker destination of Khaosan Road reach a new high after years of gloom. While tourists filter back into its shops and bars, the main lure these days is the ready availability of cannabis. And while this budding business is already packed tight with dispensaries, Khaosan Road is aiming even higher with a newly built weed complex called Plantopia.
As one walks down the road, it’s hard to miss the giant sign reading “Plantopia – Weed City” outside the Buddy Group building, where the underground floor is filled with at least a dozen cannabis shops and a common smoking area.
And more shops are sure to follow. Within the vicinity, construction workers are found completing new storefronts, including one for renowned dispensary Highland, which opened its first branch in the Lat Phrao area.
Plantopia management has found a way to avoid the big fines and jail time threatened for dispensaries which allow smoking on the premises by building a designated smoking lounge equipped with a ventilation system for people to light up.
Six months after cannabis was decriminalized in Thailand on June 9, few regulations are in place. Chief among them, people cannot smoke in public at the risk of being charged with causing a stinky, public nuisance.
The one or two guards patrolling the area said they were only there to “ensure safety.” They did not stop people from smoking weed inside the Plantopia compound.
At the complex, a few rules are in place: No pregnant women can enter the area while people under 20 can neither purchase weed nor smoke it.
“I think this is the first place in Bangkok where people can publicly smoke weed,” said Meng, a budtender at the Sky High dispensary, who only gave his nickname.
The idea for a massive 420 upgrade to Khaosan Road came from its top booster, Business Association President Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul, who has said the government should see this as an opportunity to revive the economy.
“The government should support this as this is a selling point that attracts foreign tourists to Thailand,” Sa-nga said. He noted that Plantopia complies with the health ministry regulations by providing a ventilation system.
Plantopia is located inside the Buddy Group building on Khaosan Road. While some cannabis shops open at noon, others don’t until late afternoon or evening.
All photos: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts