Will Legal Cannabis Make this Destination the Amsterdam of Asia?

Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai, might be rivaling Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as a weed-smokers' paradise now that marijuana use has been decriminalized.

The new Thai legislation - passed last year - came as a bit of a surprise, as the country previously took a very strict stance on cannabis possession. Now, just months after the bill was passed, the image of Thailand as hardcore on illicit substances has gone 'up in smoke,' with cannabis  on sale "everywhere," reports the Daily Beast, particularly in tourism destinations like Chiang Mai.

Taking a walk through Chiang Mai's night markets, beyond food, drinks and gifts, visitors can also see stalls selling weed and related paraphernalia. Besides the night markets, nightclubs, restaurants and even hostels or hotels might have some for sale.

According to the Daily Beast, Chiang Mai's old city, surrounded by a 13th-century moat, has almost 30 weed cafes and dispensaries, with names like Amsterdam Cafe, Stash Dispensary, Stoner CNX, Green Ganesha and Wake’n Bake. Outside the city walls, there are even more spots to purchase.

Beyond smoking, guests can enjoy cannabis oil massages at hotels. Anantara, a local luxury hotel chain, offers massages with oils containing THC and are promoted in the healing section on its spa menu.

Not So Fast

Buying weed in the open may have become pretty easy. But there remains one big issue - where people can light up a doobie. The report says that, despite cannabis being removed from Thailand's list of banned narcotics, smoking it in public is still forbidden. Technically, this also includes cannabis cafes that sell. This is less of an issue for locals, who can toke up at home, but it leaves tourists in a sticky situation. Apparently some cafes are strict about this rule, but other places less so.

With vague and changing laws, travellers are warned to remain extremely cautious. For example, edibles and pre-rolled joints have been removed from dispensaries. And the Thai government has recently stated that pot-smoking shops are now illegal. That apparently hasn't changed the pot scene in Chiang Mai, but in Bangkok, fines are being issued to unlicensed sellers.

With laws constantly changing and the boundaries of cannabis use uncertain, the report predicts it is unlikely that Chiang Mai - or any other Thai tourist destination -  will become the Amsterdam of Asia. At least not right away.

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