Thank You For Pot Smoking
It’s not often that we see the kind of change in Thailand like we’ve recently seen with the decriminalization of cannabis.
Almost overnight we went from 5-year mandatory prison sentence to, “Hey, let’s smoke up right in front of a cop.”
However, Stickman has mentioned a few times in his columns that he’s received feedback that some of his readers are not thrilled.
Here are some snippets:
From Stickman: “…others don’t like the idea of going out to venues where there may be a bunch of stoners.”
From Stickman: Reader feedback seems to indicate that more people are against the idea of weed being used in and around the bars than are in favour of it.
From Stickman: I also hear that some bar staff have said they would walk if customers were allowed to consume weed in the bar
From a reader: If smoking is allowed in bars in Thailand, it would be a disaster.
From another reader: In Soi Cowboy (walking through to go to Scruffy Murphy for dinner), in Soi Nana and in other places too, there are strange smells. Not pleasant.
Anyway, you get the picture. Not everyone is happy about legal cannabis in Thailand.
To be fair, some are indifferent to whether it’s legal or whether other people partake, but they don’t want to be affected by it.
This is not a unique reaction. In almost every market that has legalized cannabis, we’ve seen the same type of feedback.
Even as an advocate for cannabis, moderator of r/CannabisThailand on Reddit, and owner of ThailandTHC (an informational website), I can empathize with these feelings.
I used to be a cigar smoker but if someone sparks up a stogie in a bar, I usually leave.
Smoking cigars is a lot more enjoyable than smelling someone else’s cigar smoke.
I appreciate how non-cannabis smokers or those not comfortable with cannabis may feel the same way.
Nobody wants to go home reeking like a cigar or weed unless they were the one doing the smoking.
But, I also have heard and read push-back from people that are concerned about other people smoking weed in bars because it will impact their enjoyment of bar experience.
I’ve always believed that cannabis and the current gogo / bar scene don’t mix well in terms of business models.
Even in places where cannabis is legal back in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands, weed and booze are often kept separate.
And it’s not because cannabis consumers and beer drinkers can’t get along, it’s because it’s a different business model.
For instance, in the US, some cannabis smoking lounges are member’s clubs so the business can make money from membership fees. Some sell their own weed and rent smoking accessories. They are essentially dispensaries with on-site smoking.
This is fundamentally a different business model than running a regular bar.
As laws become more defined and investors feel more comfortable investing serious money into cannabis businesses, I’m sure we’ll see things like 420-friendly gogos, bars, and other businesses. They’ll be completely separate from existing gogos and bars.
Not that you would need to have a clean urine test to get into a regular gogo or that you must have a dirty urine test to get into a 420-friendly gogo, but the businesses will have different business models and make money in different ways.
Most normal bars would go out of business if they were selling 150 baht pre-rolled joints that were shared amongst multiple customers who sat around taking up space and not spending any other money for several hours.
Similarly, I’m sure there would be an uproar in the nightlife community if regular bars began charging customers for alcohol, making them rent their glasses or coozies, and paying a time charge for seating space.
Las Vegas provides an interesting comparison to Thailand. They both have similar tourism arrivals (42 million Vegas compared to 40 million Thailand pre-Covid), they both balance catering to families and party crowds, and they both are somewhat known for being a little risqué.
Vegas also allowed cannabis use but only in one’s own home. No smoking in hotel / casinos and no smoking of cannabis at all on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Thailand currently allows medicinal use with no qualifications and has used smoking laws to basically prohibit smoking in most public places.
Vegas adapted their approach after hearing negative feedback from tourists and have authorized smoking lounges where tourists could smoke cannabis without fearing fines or arrest.
The only catch is no alcohol can be served on the same premises where cannabis is consumed.
But that hasn’t stopped one of the biggest dispensaries in Vegas, Planet 13 from opening up a nightclub for cannabis users.
Dispensaries in Thailand are already following the Vegas model. Some dispensaries have smoking areas on their rooftops and there are already a few nightclubs targeted at cannabis users.
Realistically, this is a problem that will sort itself out one way or the other. And bars that try to straddle the fence on the issue will likely end up losing both types of customers.
But at the moment, due to the lack of regulations and the newness of it all, alcohol-based businesses and cannabis users are being mixed together which is producing some friction.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the genie is already out of the bottle and while the Thai government may put some restrictions on cannabis in future laws, this is just where the world is headed.
Even in a country as politically divided as the US, 68% of people agree there should be federal legalization.
Whether it’s Thailand, Germany, the US, Canada, Mexico, or whoever is next, more and more places are removing outdated laws and we’re going to have to figure out how to make it work.
The stoners aren’t going away and as the cannabis tourism sector begins to find its legs more and more businesses will cater to this demographic.
Cannabis users are no longer hippies and potheads that can be easily dismissed.
One of the largest segments of cannabis users is people over 50 years of age. Almost 15% of Americans in this age bracket smoke weed daily and cannabis use by older people, at least in the US, is on the rise.
And Forbes quotes a poll showing that 29% of tourists are interested in cannabis related activities while on holiday. And 44% of GenZ and Millennials have already traveled somewhere specifically for the cannabis experience.
These numbers aren’t just going to disappear because some people don’t want to be in the same bar with stoners.
The stoners have been there the whole time. They just didn’t want to risk going to jail.
But providing tourists with cannabis experiences separate from regular bars, could end up being a win-win for everyone.
People that like things the way that they are get what they want and cannabis tourists and expats get what they want.
If you want to contact the author of this submission, he can be reached either at r/CannabisThailand on Reddit as CannabisThailandMod or at his website, ThailandTHC.