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Nakhon Pathom (Thailand) (AFP) – The pungent smell of smoke was unmistakable as partygoers celebrated under the stars at a major Thai cannabis festival following the kingdom’s decision to start relaxing drug laws.
Thailand has long been known for its harsh drug laws, but the government has consistently liberalized them in recent years, and on Thursday the plant was removed from the list of banned narcotics, decriminalizing cultivation and possession.
While the changes are not in line with Canada and Uruguay’s decisions to fully legalize recreational use, Thailand hopes to take advantage of the growing global market, which is already worth billions of dollars, for legal cannabis products, especially in food and medicine.
At a festival hosted by the Highland Network marijuana advocacy group, thousands of happy attendees made the most of the relaxed new rules.
“As soon as we got to the other side, we fired,” said Steve Cannon, 62, who came with a group of friends.
“Since then people have been giving me leeks all afternoon and now I can’t tell you what a fair number was, but I’ve been smoking all afternoon,” said the American jazz musician, who lives in Bangkok for the last 15 years. .
Approximately 3,000 attendees made the trip to White Sands Beach in Nakhon Pathom Province, east of Bangkok, where stalls sell everything from T-shirts and bongs to marijuana buds and hash brownies. they were confronted with bamboo stages and palisade around an idyllic lake.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long,” said Victor Zheng, owner of the Nature Masters Weed Dispensary.
He gave advice to customers about his products, including enriched soils for cultivation and buds and flowers for consumption.
“You see people, they come and they’re very happy,” he said. “Not just us, customers have been waiting for this time.”
In 2018, Thailand legalized medical cannabis, a historic move in a Southeast Asian country where anti-drug laws are notoriously harsh, and the government has invested in the extraction, distillation and marketing of the floor.
Analyst reports suggest that over the next decade the legal cannabis market could be worth between $ 50 billion and $ 200 billion, as countries relax laws on personal and medical use.
Thai companies are moving to take advantage of liberalization, including Charoen Pokphand Foods, the food and agriculture subsidiary of giant conglomerate CP Group.
Last month, the company announced plans to develop food and beverages infused with CBD, a cannabis derivative, highlighting Thailand’s favorable climate for plant cultivation and reputation for high-quality agricultural products.
‘People are free’
The new rules leave recreational use in a gray area: smoking outside your home could still get you arrested, albeit under “public nuisance” laws rather than drug laws.
The offenders potentially face a fine of 25,000 baht ($ 780) and up to three months in prison.
And cannabis products with a concentration of more than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that produces the “high” drug, are still illegal.
But while there was a police presence at the festival, officers seemed more curious than censored.
Festival co-owner Arun “Max” Avery, 35, said he was not concerned about law enforcement and the publicity surrounding it.
The Thais had cooked, created and medicated cannabis long before the ban, he said, so “getting your native plant back in their hands is just amazing.”
“People are free to do whatever they want with it,” he added.
And the people at the festival were definitely enjoying themselves.
Joey, who just gave his name, laughed as he blew and chatted with friends, swaying softly.
“It’s very relaxing. My stress is relieved,” he said. “Smoking puts a smile on my face.”
© 2022 AFP