A planned Khao San 420 celebration of Thailand’s first World Cannabis Day with legal weed went up in smoke when police reminded organizers that smoking weed in public remains illegal.
The Cannabis Day Showcase planned for April 20 – known as “420” in the counterculture community – was cancelled and postponed until at least after the election as it focused on recreational use, rather than medicinal purposes.
Khao San 420, the event organizer, took the backlash tied to the election, which has pitted the pro-cannabis Bhumjaithai Party against the conservative establishment, which wants its June 9 decriminalization reversed.
Thai keyboard warriors and some researchers criticized the Khao San 420 event. They argued that public cannabis use was against the law and that the event would primarily be for personal enjoyment rather than medical benefits. Moreover, they feared that the Khao San 420 event could create the false impression that cannabis can be used freely without consequences.
Pushed into a corner by the Khao San 420 hippies, even Bhumjaithai executives were forced to speak out against the event, saying it would have been “inappropriate” given that the party’s official stance is that cannabis was decriminalized for medical use only.
While cannabis is no longer considered a Class 5 narcotic, a law that sets out what uses are permitted failed to pass in the last House session. In the absence of legal clarity, recreational use has increased.
However, smoking in public remains a minor offense under the Public Health Act, punishable by up to one month in jail and/or a fine of up to 2,000 baht for creating a public nuisance.
Khao San 420 Event Plans Changed
Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Business Association, said Thursday that the organizers of the Khao San 420 event made the right decision to cancel the event, as it had never received official authorization.
“I insist that those who are caught using cannabis for recreational purposes will be immediately arrested according to the Public Health Ministry’s cannabis control regulations,” Sanga said.
Pol. Col. Sanong Saengmanee, the Chana Songkhram police chief, said officers initially were told that Khao San 420 planned to hold an academic meeting, which they agreed to, before the organizers announced around midnight on Wednesday that the event was cancelled.
Officers continued to monitor the area, and foreign tourists have been warned to respect the law.
In the cannabis community, “420” typically refers to a code word or slang term used to refer to the consumption of cannabis or the culture surrounding it. It is believed to have originated in the early 1970s among a group of high school students in California who used the term to refer to the time of day they would meet to smoke cannabis after school, which was 4:20 p.m.
Over time, the term has come to be associated with the cannabis culture more broadly, and is sometimes used to refer to April 20 (4/20), which has become a sort of unofficial holiday for cannabis enthusiasts around the world. On this day, people may gather to smoke, attend festivals or events, or otherwise celebrate their love of cannabis.
In Thailand, with actual laws governing weed use in limbo, the Ministry of Public Health has published an English-language guide to what is and is not permitted, which can be downloaded here.
Prior to Thursday, the ministry and law enforcement warned pot smokers against recreational use on April 20.
Dr. Attaphon Kaewsamrit, deputy director-general of the Department of Health, said 420 smoking celebrations run against current regulations around cannabis in Thailand.
Cannabis should be used for medical purposes only and should be under the strict control of a doctor or medical professional, Attaphon insisted. Recreational use of marijuana is prohibited, he added.