Burning issue: Weed to remain legal, easily available under Thailand’s Cannabis Act

Thick smoke accompanied open weed-smoking as revelers celebrated the legalization of cannabis Sunday at the Thailand 420: Legalaew event in western metro Bangkok. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Thick smoke accompanied open weed-smoking as revelers celebrated the legalization of cannabis Sunday at the Thailand 420: Legalaew event in western metro Bangkok. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Weed smokers were exhaling smoky sighs of relief on word that pending regulations, at least in their current form, pose no threat to the new stoner status quo.

Several advocates said today that they saw nothing to fear in the forthcoming Cannabis Act’s regulations, which are mostly aimed at production rather than consumption or sale. Notably absent from the provisions disclosed so far was any attempt to recriminalize recreational smoking or shut down the budding industry that’s proliferated since legalization. 

“Nothing has changed,” said Arun Avery of the pro-marijuana Highland Network of the proposed regulations. “What you see now is exactly it.” 

Here’s where to buy cannabis right now in Bangkok (Weed Map)

Ever since the legislation was taken up amid a public backlash to the new legal free-for-all, fears have spread that the authorities would rein in cannabis’ sudden mainstreaming or even cancel the great experiment outright by recriminalizing it. 

Those fears appeared unfounded in information presented by the committee which has been working on the law before it returns to parliament for a second reading.

Beyond formalizing the age limit of 20 enacted by emergency decree, the bill would limit people to growing no more than 15 plants at home – a veritable forest for most households that Arun characterized as “ample.” 

“I don’t think it will make any difference for personal use,” he said. “For those who want to grow at home, regular Thai people in the countryside will grow just a few plants.”

Online sales would continue to be banned, a prohibition unlikely to discourage the innumerable social media shops that have long operated in the shadows. 

Want to grow weed for sale? That will require authorization, though it was too soon to tell how one would obtain it. Growing without approval would carry fines and jail time. Commercial growing would need to be done by Thais 20 and up for Thai-owned and Thai-operated companies.

As with alcohol, online advertising would be banned.

A lawyer consulting dispensaries on cannabis regulations said he saw no major changes in the rules on the table.

“Our expectation is that they’re going to mirror in a lot of ways what they did with alcohol,“ Laurence Chaney said. “There’s nothing there so far that’s giving us any concern. The lawmakers are being allowed to add in or make suggestions as to what they want. I don’t really see anything that’s causing our clients concern.”

But there are concerns about what may come later, especially amid loud calls from influential corners such as medical professionals to reverse course out of fear the sudden liberalization of weed could be harmful to children.

Soranut “Beer” Masayavanich, a longtime enthusiast and dispensary owner, said that while the present bill changes little, he worries about what may happen when it reaches the Senate – or when a new administration comes into power.

“That’s the scary thing,” he said. “There’s something coming, there’s going to be a senate meeting, a new government election. That’s what worries me.” 

But, he noted that recriminalizing weed at this point would meet a furious response. 

“Everyone is growing,” he said. “It’s over, bitch! If they make it illegal, there’s gonna be a mob on their hands.”

Another notable exception to the regulations disclosed so far was any reference to a sales license. Although one faction of health authorities last month threatened to arrest those selling weed without nonexistent licenses, there was no mention of such a requirement. Currently, no license is required.

Still, Arun advised sellers to obtain a provisional license being sold by the Public Health Ministry. for THB3,200. They take about two weeks to process.

The bill is expected to return for a second hearing as soon as next month.

For the foreseeable future, Chaney said there will be little practical changes beyond addressing some “nuisance” issues.

“They’re gonna continue with no smoking in public, they’re gonna continue down that road,” he said. “I foresee the pop-up streets, they’re probably gonna go away, like in Khaosan Road. Private smoking lounges; that will continue to be allowed. “

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