This time, back in my hometown, one obvious change in the city’s façades is the presence of weed shops. Getting high in Bangkok wasn’t a new adventure for me. But since the legal burden of marijuana has been lifted in Thailand, now I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts about the country’s new cash crop—ganja.
On the first day back in the city, after sorting the apartment in the Asoke area, I got down to an express weed shop in the next building. Conveniently, no ID is required like in Toronto and no membership fee like in Barcelona. You just need to be over 20, not pregnant, or breastfeeding. I picked a strain from their menu and scored the first gram of legal hybrid buds in Bangkok. That’s what the vape I bought in Amsterdam for!
Thailand is the latest country and the only one in Asia to join a small club of recreational cannabis legalisation. Nonetheless, like other countries in the club, it has come a long way. Ganja has taken root in Thai society for centuries such as in food, medicine, and clothing. It was criminalised in 1935 but tolerated by the enforcement. The Vietnam War expanded the users to the West. It didn’t look too good in global the War on Drugs policies. Medical cannabis was legalised in 2018. Finally, on 9 June 2022—I was then getting high in Barcelona too—recreational use was legalised. Thailand’s wild weed world entered into the next chapter.
Local vendors waste no time, cashing in on the emerging liberty. Apart from the apparent cannabis leaf logos on shopfronts everywhere, the commercialisation is quite free-range. Shop ambiences are designed for different clientele: from a high-end medical dispensary to extended franchised stores, from a posh lounge in a bar to a street-level vendor. They apply usual marketing and promotional tactics to the businesses: buy 3 get 2, stamp cards, and a membership scheme, for instance. It is by far the most unapologetic commerce of the substance I’ve ever seen.
Prices are varied but not cheaper than in other cities. Budtenders seem to know their products. They mostly refer to the same database as mine. Tourists also flock in for the high vibe, predictable! It is still confusing whether each one lets customers consume weed inside. Some display a clear no smoking sign while some have a pool table in their shop. Therefore, I don’t hang out in a cannabis store.
Of course, there are some counter-movements in the society. Some pubs and restaurants prohibit smoking pot on their patio. Health professionals voice their concerns. Some governments warn their citizens about visiting the country. Some lobbyers want to put it back on narcotics lists. There may be new regulations to offset the green rush. It’s early days.
My marijuana adventures in different countries convince me that shining the light on a shadow economy also benefits consumers, not just boosts cash flow into the industry. You know what you get from the menus. If you don’t, a budtender can assist you. They usually weigh the weed in front of you. My regular shop in Bangkok even labels the farm they grew. Frankly speaking, those options were not available in Istanbul or Tbilisi. They were also rare in Bangkok until the legalisation.
From the first public joint smoking as a tourist in Toronto to starting to incorporate it into my lifestyle in DC during the lockdown, and to vaping and making cannabutter in my hometown, it’s a long weed journey. That little devil’s advocate entices my weak spot and lures me beyond moderation. I told a friend of mind while loading cannabis into the vape at a burger joint (for the later session), “It feels good to be able to do this in my hometown.” But most of all, I think this is an exciting space to watch.