Just recently, a cannabis cafe opened in Khao San, an area of Bangkok popular with tourists. RG420 is the cannabis retail destination, and it's already crammed with customers.
Since Thailand decriminalized the cannabis plant in June, several such outlets have sprung up across the capital. Tourism numbers shrank to two million in the first part of 2022 from close to forty million just a few years ago, and RG420's owner Ongard Panyachatiraksa and other entrepreneurs in the cannabis space view their cafes as essential to efforts to revitalize the tourism industry that contributed significantly to GDP before the pandemic struck.
Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical marijuana four years ago. And subsequently, the cannabis plant was decriminalized entirely just last month.
According to government officials, this has led to an explosion in adult cannabis consumption. Officials are concerned about adverse effects on health and productivity and have retrospectively tried to discourage its non-medical consumption.
The law does not provide provisions for recreational cannabis use, and the tourism promotion focuses on the medical benefits, tourism authority's Deputy Governor, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, implied.
The pushback against the interpretation of the new policy has caused some confusion, with authorities backtracking and issuing piecemeal ordinances such as its sale to consumers under 20 years of age and banning public smoking of cannabis.
Officials are now debating a bill to regulate cannabis consumption which expects a decision in September. The committee's decision could impact the cannabis cafes.
Cannabis entrepreneur and one of the committee's members, Akira Wongwan, said she expected adult-use cannabis to be subject to zoning laws.