Business Global / Local Recreational

Exploring Cannabis Culture: Bangkok

cannabis bangkok
Written by Joseph Mcqueen
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“Behind a bend of the Maenam, the entire town of Bangkok appeared in sight. I do not believe that there is a sight in the world more magnificent or more striking. This Asiatic Venice” – Ludovic Marquis de Beauvoir

Next up on our cannabis culture series, we’re heading over to the bustling, noisy, chaotic yet utterly beautiful city of Bangkok. Whilst the Hangover II film may have created one narrow-minded idea of this city, the truth is far more nuanced and brilliant than that. Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, sits in the midst of Southeast Asia. It oozes with illustrious history, beautiful food and a very strict drug policy. However, are the rumours actually true? Can you seriously receive the death penalty for just smoking a joint? Well it seems things are changing. We’re going to be delving into the cannabis culture of Bangkok, Thailand, to truly see the truth that lies beneath the tuk tuks and Pad Thais. Remember, cannabis culture isn’t just about laws or the government, it’s also about the feelings, the zeitgeist and the people. Culture is made by people. Welcome to Bangkok.

Whether you’re talking about the US, Europe, or anywhere else in the world, cannabis culture can vary significantly. The connection between Bangkok and Thailand is especially interesting. To learn about laws across the globe, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!


Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. Thailand is situated at the centre of Southeast Asia, which also consists of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is the true stereotypical gap year (pronounced ‘gap yah’ by pretentious Brits) location, with over 22 million people travelling to Bangkok every season. This is above both Paris and London. Bangkok is a highly populated city, with 1 in 10 Thais living in the capital, equalling around 8 million people. 

Bangkok is famous for an array of different reasons. One, of course, is the insanely hot temperature. Bangkok is technically the hottest city in the world when it comes to average temperature throughout the year. Funnily enough, Bangkok has the longest city name in the world. In Thailand, locals refer to Bangkok as: “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. Yep. Quite the mouthful. 

Thailand and Bangkok, specifically, have an insanely dense history. Aventure Life writes:

“Thailand’s cultural influences have included the culture and religions of India, the Kingdom of Funan, and the Khmer Empire. The “Indianized” kingdoms – what is now central Thailand, Srivijaya, and Cambodia – contributed to the flow of Buddhism from India to what was known as Siam.”

Whilst the cuisine and paradise of Thailand is well-known, there is also a parallel culture. This is slightly portrayed in the Hangover II movie. This is the reputation of a booming commercial industry and for promiscuous activity. It is sometimes seen as a playground for wealthy tourists. Britannica writes:

“Tourism rose in importance during the Vietnam War, when the city became a popular destination for U.S. military personnel. By the 1980s, nightclubs and the tourist sex trade—as well as crime and sexually transmitted diseases—were flourishing. Although prostitution is formally illegal and the number of prostitutes per capita is lower in Thailand than in some other Asian countries, the city’s commercial sex industry employs an estimated 100,000 people and is popular among foreign tourists.”

Nonetheless, whichever culture you decide to focus on, there’s no doubt that Bangkok is a capital full of life. So, without further ado, let’s dig a little deeper into it’s well known elements of the world of Bangkok. 

Cuisine 

Thai cuisine is some of the best in the world. With noodles, curries and soups, the variation is endless. Known for its exotic combination of meats, vegetables and spices, the flavour of Bangkok cuisine is unlike anything in the world. What’s more, the average meal in this crazy city is around 1-2$ or 30-100 Baht. Some of the well-known tasty delicacies include: pat thai, tom yam, gooay teeo reua and som tum. If you don’t know about these dishes, then look them up. Or, better still, go there yourself and have the pleasure of trying them. 

Khao San Road 

Khao San Road, or backpacker road, is the home of tourism in Bangkok. It’s known for its cheap hostels, fun bars and, oddly enough, a world-record contending amount of fake IDs and DVDs. For a tourist, this is the first place anyone heads to when arriving in Bangkok. It’s a hub of international people searching for a good time. CNN writes: 

“According to the Khao San Business Association, in 2018 the road saw an astounding 40,000-50,000 tourists per day in the high season, and 20,000 per day in the low season.”

Khao San Road is the starting point for many tourists on their long journey through Thailand. Next up will be the beautiful locations of Chiang Mai, Phuket, Kao Tao and many other astonishing places. 

Law in Bangkok

Thailand can be somewhat confusing when it comes to laws and legislation, especially regarding cannabis. It seems to be simultaneously on the edge of complete leniency and complete rigidity. For instance, Thailand is known for its progressive views on transgender policies. For example, it was one of the first countries to implement trans washrooms. However, at the same time, it’s also illegal to do the following things:

  • Leave the house without pants on.
  • Drive a motorcycle without a top on.
  • Tread on Thai currency.  

It’s evident that Thailand is a free and exciting place for many tourists. However, there is also an element of fear surrounding the place. Many believe that Thai officials can have quite severe reactions to somewhat minor offences. However, where do they stand on drugs? Is it really as bad as the rumours say?

Drug Law 

Drug law in Thailand is full of contradictions. Whilst Thailand is known for it’s MDMA-water at its world-renowned Full Moon Party, Mushroom Shakes in its high bars and cannabis shops on top of mountains, it’s also a place where you can receive the death penalty for possession of heroin. The GOV UK website states:

“Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. If you are found guilty of possession of marijuana you could receive a long prison sentence and/or a heavy fine. If you’re found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams of a Class A drug on exiting Thailand you risk receiving the death penalty.”

This is a scarily strict reality. But what about cannabis? If you’re found with cannabis, or any THC products, a Schedule I drug according to the The Psychotropic Substances Act, you could be subject to these sentences:

  • Imprisonment of 5-20 years and a fine of 100,000-400,000 Baht for production, importation or exportation sale
  • Imprisonment not exceeding 5 years and a fine not exceeding 100,000 Baht for carrying across borders
  • Imprisonment of 1-5 years and a fine of 20,000-100,000 Baht for possession, use or consumption

Cannabis Law in Bangkok

Cannabis was both illegal recreationally and medically for a long time, as you can see by these harsh prosecutions. However, in 2020, Thailand became the first Asian nation to decriminalise the use and production of cannabis for medical purposes. ABC writes:

“Under changes made in 2020, most parts of the cannabis plant were dropped from the “Category 5” list of controlled drugs, but seeds and buds, which are associated with recreational use, were retained.”

This is the first step to, hopefully, a more progressive stance on cannabis. The Health Ministry hopes to one day legalize cannabis entirety. They, with the FDA, are currently working on a bill that would propose the legalization of legalizing recreational use and cultivation of the plant. The law would allow people to grow cannabis for personal use, ensuring they report their activity to government organisations. When asked about this idea, the FDA secretary-general, Dr Paisarn, told the Bangkok Post

“Of course, we won’t go to the stage of cannabis cafés, but there are different models for its recreational use in other countries. We’ll select the best one that suits our social context,”

This is a major step away from the previously strict laws on cannabis, and will hopefully lead to more of this in the future.

The Culture of Cannabis in Bangkok, and other parts of Thailand

Secret Locations

Whilst cannabis laws have been extremely rigid for decades, the amount of islands surrounding the mainland suggests a different story. Thailand’s incredible selection of islands are some of the most exotic and beautiful in the world. In fact, Leonardo Di Caprio’s wonderful film, The Beach, is technically set on Koh Phi Phi. Bangkok, being a busy city, has harsher laws on cannabis than the islands surrounding it. These islands are littered with small cannabis bars and mushroom-shaking cafes in the middle of jungles and top of mountains, you just have to find them. 

The Eden Party

Many people know about the Full Moon Party that Thailand boasts. However, it’s now become a tourist hot spot, and a place for westerners to drink alcohol and vomit everywhere. The Eden Party is one of the most secret locations in Thailand and it isn’t an easy place to find. However, once you’ve found it, it’s paradise. When I was there, you could buy joints at the bar and Ecstasy as well. It’s hosted on a private beach that is inaccessible by foot. It’s honestly like something out of a film. Full Moon Asia writes:

“This is it. You have stumbled onto one of the greatest secrets of the Thai islands, the Eden Garden Party in Koh Phangan. The party is held every Saturday and is a psychedelic-themed event. Eden Bar is a great place to chill out with a cheeky smoke and watch the sea below or dance the night away. The entire atmosphere is geared towards people wanting to have an incredible time.”

Conclusion

The cannabis culture in Bangkok and Thailand is shifting with new legislation. However, when compared to the rest of the world, this location is hardly revolutionary with its progressive drug laws. In fact, some of them are kinda scary. Nonetheless, the islands and secret spots of Thailand are where the magic happens. Bangkok only is the starting point for a long and exciting journey.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.

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