The BBC Reports
A new symbol has appeared in the kaleidoscopic jumble of neon signs that light up Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok’s most international street. The sudden ubiquity of the five-pointed marijuana leaf, in lurid green, announces the spectacular boom there has been in weed-related businesses in Thailand since cannabis was decriminalised last June.
Walk two kilometres east of the BBC office in Bangkok, and you pass more than 40 dispensaries, selling potent marijuana flower buds and all the paraphernalia needed to smoke them.
Travel in the opposite direction, to the famous backpacker hangout of Khao San Road, and there is an entire marijuana-themed shopping mall, Plantopia, its shops half-hidden behind the haze of smoke created by customers trying out the product. The website Weed in Thailand lists more than 4,000 businesses across the country selling cannabis and its derivatives.
And this is Thailand, where until last June you could be jailed for five years just for possessing marijuana, up to 15 years for producing it; where other drug offences get the death penalty. The pace of change has been breathtaking.
“It is messy, but then this is Thailand, and without this sudden liberalisation I don’t think it would have happened at all,” says Kitty Chopaka, founder of Elevated Estate, a company that offers advice on the marijuana industry, and has been a part of the parliamentary committee trying to get the new regulations passed.
But this is not the kind of liberalisation long-term campaigners like her dreamed of.
“We need regulation. Spelling out what you can and cannot do,” Ms Chopaka says. “It is causing a lot of confusion, a lot of people not knowing what they can do, what they can put money behind.”
Read more at