Bangkok is becoming Asia’s ‘Amsterdam’ as cannabis cafes appear across the city following the relaxation of drug laws.
The latest venue, the 420 Cannabis Bar, opened two futuristic neon-lit venues for dine-in customers within the Thai capital city last month. The cafes are decorated with colourful lights and artificial cannabis plants making it look like a marijuana greenhouse.
It is the latest cannabis-based cafe – with restaurants, bars, stalls, bakers and even vending machines appearing around the country. Ministers hope the plant will be a ‘cash crop’ to stimulate the struggling tourist-dependent economy which is reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The relaxation of laws has even seen soaring share prices of businesses developing cannabis-based products, with some publicly-traded companies seeing 11 per cent rises on Wednesday (March 17).
With thousands of neon-lit gogo bars and massage parlours already open, the addition of cannabis cafes would make the city the Asian equivalent of Amsterdam in Holland.
At the 420 Cannabis Bar, drinks are available in different flavoured teas such as pandan, cocoa, plum soda, kiwi, apple, honey lemon, and it also comes in an unflavoured variant for those who are feeling adventurous.
Aside from their signature blend of drinks, the cafe also offers desserts and snacks such as brownies and pizzas which use marijuana leaves as ingredients. The teas and snacks available have cannabidiol, or CBD, the plant extract that is believed to offer therapeutic effects without the ‘high.’
This means that the menu could cause customers to feel sleepy and relaxed since the amount of THC, the extract responsible for the high sensation, is lessened in their food and drinks.
All the marijuana ingredients used in the cafe are sourced from Chao Phya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, Mae Jo University, and Suranaree University of Technology.
Business owner Yada Petite, who also worked as an entertainer, said she and her partner wanted to have the first cannabis cafe in the country so they have been following the changes in marijuana laws.
She said: ‘We wanted to become the very first cannabis cafe in Thailand. We have been following the news of how the cannabis laws have change and we are happy that it turned out well for us.’
The Thai Public Health Ministry approved the use of cannabis and hemp for medical and research purposes in 2019 – the first Southeast Asian country to legalise the plant for medical use.
In January this year, restrictions were further eased to allow businesses such as cafes and restaurants to sell food and drinks mixed with the weaker parts of marijuana plants such as the leaves, stalks, stems and roots.
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul hopes the industry will generate extra revenue for the country, which has seen its income from tourism decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The liberalisation of cannabis laws has seen rising share prices for companies involved in the industry. On Wednesday, Cosmetic and supplements producer, DOD Biotech Pcl , saw share prices climb as high as 11.6% after it said it would develop and manufacture dietary supplements and skincare products that contain hemp for retailer Beauty Community Pcl. Beauty Community jumped as high as 4.4% during trade against a benchmark gain of about 0.2%.