Ever since weed was made legal, a green rush has exploded across the realm as dreamers set out to build their kush empires.
New dispensaries have spread as quickly as mounting concerns and public backlash have raised concern of a crackdown on unfettered commerce, including a recent and short-lived threat to arrest those without licenses that didn’t exist.
Except now they do. Sort of. While no law or regulation yet requires sellers to hold a license – and it is unclear if they ever will – the Public Health Ministry has begun supplying provisional licenses to those who want to play it safe.
So how do you get one of these elusive licenses?
To find the answer, I set out to ministry headquarters in northwest metro Bangkok with some friends eager to register their weed-selling business.
Note: Only weed businesses in Bangkok and Nonthaburi province may apply at the main ministry campus. Those in other jurisdictions must head to their provincial public health office.
Who can apply
Both Thai and foreign nationals with work permits are eligible to apply. The business where they intend to sell weed must already be operating in a physical storefront. Business owners may appoint a representative to apply for them.
What to bring
You don’t want to travel all the way to Nonthaburi province only to be sent home with a list of missing documents. Also, remember this is the public health ministry – wear a mask.
Bring photocopies of your commercial business license, official identification, home registration (for Thai nationals), and printed map of your business location – Google Maps is fine. One unexpected request was a map and photo of the farm where applicants plan to source their cannabis. The applicants I accompanied were able to print the required documents from smartphone screenshots taken from Google Maps and Street View.
How to get there
Applications must be made between 9am and 4pm at the Department of Thai Traditional and Complementary Medicine at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province, just over the border from Bangkok. It is north of Bangkok’s Bang Sue district and northwest of Chatuchak. To get there by public transport, plot a course to MRT Ministry of Public Health on the Purple Line. Otherwise it is a roughly 45-minute drive from downtown Bangkok. If you take your own car, find parking in the lanes surrounding the building.
Upon arrival, present one form of valid ID to obtain visitors badges for everyone in your party at a guard post situated in front of the central building. Don’t worry, they already know you are there for the “ganja” and will direct you to the nearby entrance to building No. 3. There, take the lift to the seventh floor. Exiting the lift, walk straight ahead into an outdoor hall to the very end. There, we found the door to the registration office open and friendly staff waiting with the necessary form.
Note: In the event any additional documents are needed, there is a small print shop about five minutes away by foot. Head north across Soi Satharanasuk 1 past the ministry post office through a covered walkway beside a blue athletic court to find the shop to the right.
The form actually covers three licenses. Each comes with its own fee: THB20,000 for a license to export weed to other countries, or THB1,000 to conduct medical research. The retail license we were there for was a reasonable THB3,200.
Note that while staff will collect a THB20 filing fee with your application and documents, no additional fee will be paid until the license is approved and ready to be picked up in roughly 30 days.
While it’s possible to apply for all three licenses, doing so would require filling out three application forms.
The first section asks whether applicants are registering as individuals, a company, or as a nominated representative. Registering as a company means the license will cover all duly appointed agents.
The second section lists the required documents, and that’s when we went searching for a print shop with an hour left on the clock. These are bureaucrats, people: They will close shop at 4pm on the dot.
After all the documents – and THB20 – were accepted, we were told to await notification by telephone and email – a process currently taking about 30 days. If approved, you will have to return to pay the fee and, voila, the license is yours.
The license is valid for three years from date of approval. Once expired, another journey is required to apply for an extension.
And with that, all you budding entrepreneurs will have what it takes to sell weed, should the law ever require it. And what if the law changes? A staff member said they don’t expect the current license paradigm to be affected, at least not for “two or three years.”
Of course, all this information is likely to change. A staffer said the application will likely be moved online in the future and made English-friendly if the powers that be deem it a priority.
For now, find licensing information online in Thai or call 02-149-5607, Ext. 8 (No English here, either).