“THEY MIGHT JUST REVERSE THE DECISION”
Ann Khoonoram started the first marijuana dispensary in Buriram, a small store that stocks a small selection of the drug. She said locals viewed her store with caution at first but she has enjoyed increasing business of late.
She worries that the election result could jeopardise the future of her operation.
“I want (the people in power) to give us the opportunity to continue our business, especially those of us who have already opened our shops. I want the laws to be clear and consistent in terms of the direction they are going in,” she said.
“I can never be sure, one day they might just reverse the decision back to making it illegal. If they change the laws, I’ll just have to accept it.”
Worapot Kotcharat, a rice and cannabis farmer in Buriram, concurs that the weed issue is a sensitive one.
“Right now things are not looking good because lots of people are trying to use the political situation to take cannabis hostage. That is why cannabis in Thailand is very fragile and a very sensitive topic now,” he said.
Farmers in the area are confident though that cannabis legalisation in the country cannot be backtracked now, regardless of who takes power, given the levels of investment many people have already made.
“The concept of making it illegal again does not make sense. No one will get rid of marijuana, but it’s about how strict the laws will be. This will be a challenge for the farmers who will have to adapt to the situation,” Siwasan the grower said.
“A major party clearly says it wants marijuana to be back on the narcotics list, but in reality, marijuana laws have progressed far beyond that, and I don’t think they would dare to go up against the new wave of entrepreneurs who have jumped into this business,” he said, in reference to Pheu Thai.
Bhumjaithai has framed the issue as an economic one. Cannabis is a cash crop, the party has argued, that can provide great financial assistance to a poor swathe of the country – its stronghold in the northeast as well as the country’s north.
By distributing plants to households, it has encouraged the average Thai to join the cannabis wave. Meanwhile, industry leaders are assisting to convert conventional farmers from their usual staple crops like rice, yams and sugar cane and put effort into a potentially far more lucrative alternative.
“These are all agricultural products that are subsidised by the government. So we feel like it’s not a stable income or source of revenue for the farmers that is very secure,” said Chidchanok Chidchob, the founder of agriculture business, Pan Buriram.
Her enterprise brings local farmers in and equips them with the practical knowledge to start growing their own cannabis crops. The growing process is labour intensive and the plants are sensitive, meaning large-scale adoption is unlikely, she said.
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