Khaosan Road ‘cannabis hub’ dream goes up in smoke

Pot smokers and cannabis advocates on April 20, 2022, hit Khaosan Road to celebrate Weed Day. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Pot smokers and cannabis advocates on April 20, 2022, hit Khaosan Road to celebrate Weed Day. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Despite the sudden proliferation of trucks and vendors hawking the wacky tobaccy, Khaosan Road will not become a hub for cannabis, City Hall said yesterday. 

After the famous backpacker destination Khaosan Road sprang to life again with vendors selling weed on the street, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration on Monday rejected suggestions the area be turned into a “cannabis hub” as demanded by several business owners. 

“It’s very unlikely to happen because Khaosan Road is located near schools and temples,” said Jakkapan Phiewngam, Bangkok deputy governor. 

The idea of upgrading Khaosan Road, which suffered economically during the pandemic and aesthetically under a city-imposed “makeover,” came from Khaosan Road Business Association President Sa-nda Ruangwattanakul. He 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 into Thailand,” Sa-nga said.

A customer inspects their weed purchase at Bangkok’s Highland Cafe on June 9, 2022, the first day cannabis was decriminalized. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Sa-nga refuted the city’s concerns about the already-dank scene there would gain ill repute, arguing the would-be weed alley would come with strict regulations including establishing private smoking lounges, enforcing age limits, and licensing vendors. 

Last week, Chana Songkhram police searched the street and warned some weed vendors to stop selling on the street without permission as it violated the Cleanliness Act.

Selling cannabis is not illegal, but as part of the makeover, City Hall years ago reined in its chaotic bazaar vibes by requiring all vendors to be licensed.

Col. Tharadol Hemmepat, acting chief of the nearby Chana Songkhram Police Station, said repeat offenders would be charged THB2,000. 

Gov. Chadchart Sittipunt also weighed in on concerns about Khaosan Road becoming “wild” due to all the ganja toking. He said that while the city could not prosecute people for consuming weed, he asked officials to monitor “risky” areas. 

“City Hall’s role is limited to a certain extent since we’re not narcotics officers,” Chadchart said. “But the way we handle this issue is through other laws instead such as the Cleanliness Act or regulations on street vendors.

Only one week after cannabis was decriminalized on June 9, Chadchart vowed that he would keep all of Bangkok’s 437 schools weed-free. The newly elected governor also toured a few schools to campaign for it. 

Thailand is still waiting for lawmakers to pass and enact the Cannabis Act, which will codify the age limit and prohibition of selling to pregnant and breastfeeding women. For now, those limits are in place under an emergency order issued ex post facto

While officials say smokers cannot smoke in the public, there is no legal basis for stopping them beyond threat of a public nuisance citation, which can only be issued after a warning is given. 

The bill passed its first reading in parliament on June 8 – the day before full decriminalization came into effect.

Bhumjaithai Party MP Supachai Jaisamut, who serves as chairman of the committee vetting the bill, said the next draft of the bill should be completed “around August.”

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