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Will Thailand's Cannabis Producers Survive the U.S. Invasion?

One year after the decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand, growers and sellers say they're facing fierce competition due to illegal imports flooding in at a fraction of the cost. Despite hopes that legalizing cannabis could spark an economic boom for Thai businesses, American imports seem determined to keep them out of pocket.

In June 2022, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical cannabis. This monumental decision marks a major victory for Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul's campaign to establish their country as an international hub of legal marijuana usage and research.

While Thailand's parliament has yet to pass legislation supporting cannabis industry regulations, local entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the opportunity created by foreign money - with many dispensaries across Thailand stocking imported products from the US because they are much cheaper than what's locally available.

According to local business owners, foreign brokers are now in the country and selling untaxed, smuggled weed which is being sold up to five times its original price by dispensaries.

local prices for a gram of cannabis go for about $9 US and imported cannabis grams are selling for around $4.50 US, a significant amount cheaper.

One shop owner revealed the clandestine efforts behind bringing prohibited cannabis into Thailand, as brokers attempt to persuade his shop on a daily basis. With weed cleverly concealed in furniture and fruit or vegetable containers, customs officers are unable to detect it upon inspection.

With Thailand's recreational cannabis laws often overlooked, street-side shops and stalls selling the substance can be spotted in abundance. There is an undeniable trend toward a relaxed attitude on marijuana use around major urban areas of the country.

Thailand has been experiencing an influx of tourists due to its lenient stance towards cannabis consumption; however, owners are concerned that Thai businesses are not capitalizing on the emerging market opportunity.

Customers are increasingly focused on the strength of their cannabis, prioritizing higher THC content over origin.

The Bhumjaithai Party, who recently called for the decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand, have attributed the recent surge in illegal imports to corrupt officials and political opportunism ahead of Sunday's general elections. They warned that these issues could derail their efforts to reform drug laws across the country.

Many local cannabis entrepreneurs are struggling to compete in a marketplace filled with illegal, imported weed. One dealer-turned-legal entrepreneur reveals the impact of foreign imports on his business - having invested heavily into developing custom soils and fertilizers only for it to be too costly compared to illegally imported marijuana.

Amidst booming business in Thailand, local entrepreneurs are being left at a disadvantage due to increased investment from foreign money and a lack of regulations surrounding illegal imports. Raids on street stalls have done little to curb the prices set by these deep pockets while small-scale vendors struggle to keep up with the competition. Unless some form of oversight is imposed soon, this looming imbalance may spell disaster for those trying hardest within their own communities.


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