Near the grand conference halls in central Bangkok where Asian leaders will meet this week, a swarm of marijuana shops, the Thai capital’s newest tourist attraction, bustled despite a controversy threatening the industry. growing.
Since Thailand decriminalized cannabis this year, shops selling homegrown and imported varieties, pre-rolled joints and gummies have sprung up.
New cafes with names like MagicLeaf and High Society are located just minutes from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meetings.
But the proliferation of these types of businesses has provoked a backlash from some politicians and doctors who say the change was carried out without regulation and are now calling for stricter rules, or even a new ban.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZED IN THESE STATES IN MIDTERM ELECTION
A cannabis regulation bill to regulate cultivation, sale and consumption has been delayed in parliament, causing confusion over just how legal it will be.
“We are in a vacuum,” a senator, Somchai Sawangkarn, told a national broadcaster on Wednesday, adding that the Health Ministry’s announcements had not curbed recreational use.
Southeast Asia has strict laws prohibiting the sale and use of most drugs, but Thailand became a major exception in June when it removed cannabis from its list of narcotics.
The movement was spearheaded by health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who framed marijuana as a cash crop for farmers and championed its medical use, but recreational use exploded.
Authorities subsequently rushed to make partial updates to the regulation clarifying that cannabis could not be sold to children or near schools and temples.
‘Super High’ Earnings
Netnapa Singathit had a smoking lounge for a while after opening his RG420 cannabis shop in central Bangkok, but switched to serving drinks after authorities banned such lounges.
She called for regulation that standardizes quality, adding: “We are concerned about non-compliant operators and customers ending up with bad products.”
The last few weeks have brought a wave of news about hospitalizations and use by children.
The president of Thailand’s medical examiners association, Smith Srisont, petitioned a court last week to relist it as a narcotic.
“It was a mistake not to have laws in place before unlocking cannabis…it is not used for medical purposes, but recreationally,” he told reporters.
However, with big profits to be made, many business owners are relaxed about the changes to come. Anutin has ruled out decriminalization, but supports more regulation.
Akira Wongwan, CEO of a medical cannabis company, Adam Group, said the profit margins for recreational cannabis were “super high.”
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The sector could be worth $1.2 billion by 2025, the University of Thailand Chamber of Commerce estimated.
“Most people still think they can at least make a profit now, even if the regulations change,” Akira said.