In headbands and tie-dye, they came out of the smoky shadows to celebrate Tuesday.
Weed enthusiasts gathered in a celebratory mood to roll spliffs and get a head start on the legalization of recreational weed hours before it was officially announced in the late afternoon, with a cheer going up at 4:55pm.
Among them was Rattapon “Guide” Sanrak, who years ago founded a group called Highland to elevate awareness and campaign for legalization.
“It’s a big deal, a big move – something we hadn’t expected to happen this quickly. That’s why we’re gathered here today,” Guide said.
Just after 4pm, a march departed from outside the tourism ministry building on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road around the corner to the United Nations headquarters to “light the joints” of celebration.
Though approved by the national narcotics body this afternoon, legal smokers will technically have to wait for the new regulations to come into effect later this year – four months after they are published in the Royal Gazette, which could happen “very soon.”
Then, people can not only smoke up at home but also grow weed for their own use.
Another marijuana fan, Seksan “Sek” Auttasan, said he has been fighting nearly 10 years for cannabis to be legal. He said it would be a “dream come true” if the officials give the green light to the new rules decriminalizing the rest of the cannabis plant, i.e. the flowers and bits that get one high.
The only exception, however, is that the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) level of “extracts” produced from domestically grown weed will not be allowed to exceed 0.2%.
An actor and weed activist known as Max Puanyim has been using weed for recreational use since he was young. He said the society he grew up in always painted cannabis as an “evil” drug that ruined lives. He said it’s time for Thais to relearn what they know about weed.
“Weeds’ benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I want people to be more open-minded and learn about it,” he said.
Max compares the legalization of cannabis – which has taken about seven years since it was proposed – to that of hemp and kratom, which already crossed the finish line in the past two years.
“Why were those legalized so easily? What about cannabis, which offers plenty of benefits for many of us? Why not?” Max asked.
Tang Chaiyawan, 58, traveled from his home in Phutthamonthon west of Bangkok as soon as he heard about the rally today. The Amnat Charoen province native said he has suffered from a degenerative spinal condition for 40 years. On his worst days, his weight fell to 42 kilograms.
“I could not walk, I could not eat,” he said. Tang underwent surgery and modern medicine until he found another help: cannabis. He’s been boiling it into a tea at home since then.
“Cannabis saved my life. I wanted to see why so many people oppose legalizing it,” Tang said.
Before the decision was announced, cannabis proponents held an impromptu sidewalk discussion to talk about the need for full legalization in Thailand, especially to boost the economy the country has suffered for years.
“It’s a shame that we have so much potential – skilled people, and high quality weed – that we cannot make use of,” Guide said. “If cannabis is fully legalized, Thailand will totally shine on the international stage.”
Additional writing Todd Ruiz