Cannabis cafes the latest addition to Thailand’s tourist offerings

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The RG420 cannabis cafe opened just four days ago in Khao San, an area of ​​Bangkok popular with backpackers – and it’s already packed with customers.

Several such outlets have sprung up in the capital since Thailand decriminalized the factory in June, a few weeks before it dropped COVID-related controls on foreign visitors.

Foreign arrivals shrank to 2 million in the first half of 2022, from nearly 40 million in 2019, and RG420 owner Ongard Panyachatiraksa and others like him view their cafes as central to efforts to revive a tourist industry. which contributed about 12% to GDP before the pandemic.

He said hundreds visited the cafe every day and he plans to open more.

“Europeans, Japanese, Americans – they are looking for Thai sativa,” Ong-ard told Reuters, referring to a cannabis strain. “Cannabis and tourism are a match.”

Not everyone agrees.

In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize marijuana for medical use. In June, the entire cannabis plant was decriminalized.

That has led to an explosion in recreational use, something that government officials — concerned about the negative health and productivity effects often linked to uncontrolled use of the drug — have tried to discourage in retrospect.

“The law does not cover recreational cannabis use… and so the tourism promotion is focused on medical (aspects),” said the Deputy Governor of the National Tourism Authority, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot.

Opposition to how the new policy is being interpreted has caused some confusion, with authorities resorting to issuing fragmented rules, such as banning the public smoking of cannabis and its sale to young people under the age of 20.

A parliamentary committee is now debating a bill to regulate cannabis use, which is expected to be finalized in September and could affect cannabis cafes.

Akira Wongwan, a medical cannabis entrepreneur and one of the committee’s advisers, said she expected recreational use to be subject to zoning.

Meanwhile, Briton Malik Khan has just finished rolling a joint in the crowded smoking area at RG420 – a reference to Rag Gan, a Thai expression meaning ‘love each other’.

“This country is beautiful and there is so much to do here,” said the 26-year-old. “It (cannabis) really adds to the scene.”



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