Currently, the Thai parliament is reviewing a controversial cannabis bill. The reviewed bill that doubles penalties and introduces jail terms for those found cultivating, selling, or importing the drug without licenses has attracted much debate. Apart from that, the bill also proposes fines for engaging in the recreational smoking of marijuana drugs even when one is at their home. Such a clause attracted much criticism as Chokwan Kitty Chopaka, a businesswoman, and supporter of cannabis legalization made her concerns known.
“The whole discussion about medical and recreational, it’s too black and white,” she says in episode four of the Deeper Dive series, a podcast by the Bangkok Post.
“Say if I have a joint — I smoke about an inch of it, and it helps my migraine. I can now sit and work for another two, or three hours reading documents and researching, but the second inch of that joint — because I no longer have the migraine, I am now happy. Does that mean that’s recreational? So it’s never really black or white. We should also be able to grow what we use in our household,” she argued.
Chokwan expressed disapproval saying, “This new bill does not allow for home-grown, does not allow for home use of the home-grown. If you grow, you need to sell. If you want to use it, you need to buy it. So it shows the amount of rights that they are trying to remove from us.”
Frustration Over Difficulty in Reporting Unlicensed Activities
On the alleged surge of complaints about smoking cannabis, she vented frustrations about the lack of a clear reporting mechanism.
“I could not find a f****** phone number to call to make a complaint. We even had meetings with the health department. It is so hard to even get someone on the other end of the phone to ask any questions or tell them, ‘Hey, there is an unlicensed shop selling in front of a school’ or something like that, there is no way for you to make complaints. I would also like to make those complaints!”
Chokwan believes legislation is needed to help regulate bad actors to safeguard the financial interests of investors. With the Thai Chamber of Commerce pegging the value of the cannabis industry by 2025 at 43 billion baht, a new law is very necessary to provide investors with assurances. She’s also dismissed concerns the new law is aimed to dismantle the industry stating it’s already too deeply ingrained in Thai society.
“You can drive down the expressway, and you seem like Doctor CBD or CBD water,” she assured. “You go to 7-Eleven, you see cannabis water … it has slowly integrated into Thailand … no different than like, say, alcohol or sweets or like snacks”
She added the bill is a representative of a power struggle and will represent which government departments will be in control of the cannabis industry for the next five years. “It’s not about cannabis, it’s about political positioning … more like a pawn that they can use of kind of exchange or move around,” she said.
Potential Enforcement of Recreational Smoking Ban
To many, the most vital question is whether the ban on recreational smoking and the associated 60,000-baht fine will be enforced. “At least there’s no criminal charges,” Chokwan added. “I would say that it’s more of a deterrent, which equals more shakedowns.”
She also added that she doesn’t expect a big rise in police raids on private homes.
“The press … will go, ‘You can’t use it recreationally.’ This doesn’t mean that you will stop people from using it. But at least they will go away from other people so that they don’t get caught … not bothering anyone. So it’s not like arrests are going to increase, or it will be any different than before legalization. We just have to kind of find our way around those rules that come in,” she concluded.
Check out our guide to responsible cannabis consumption in Thailand.