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Thailand to Strengthen Cannabis Regulations as Thousands of Dispensaries Mushroom

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Thailand's newly appointed prime minister has pledged to tighten regulations on the medical use of marijuana in response to the proliferation of nearly 6,000 cannabis shops across the country. Thailand made history as the first Asian nation to decriminalize marijuana a year ago, leading to a surge in dispensaries and related challenges.

The regulatory gap, resulting from the reclassification of marijuana and its removal as a narcotic, has given rise to a widespread network of dispensaries offering a range of cannabis products, including buds and oil extracts with less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component responsible for the “high” sensation.

In addition to the abundance of dispensaries, Thai farmers are now permitted to cultivate cannabis after registering with the nation's Food and Drug Administration. However, local dispensary owners have raised concerns about unregulated imports and falling prices affecting their businesses.

The move to loosen restrictions on cannabis comes amid Thailand's status as a key conduit for drug trafficking in the vast Mekong river valley of Southeast Asia. Law enforcement agencies in the region have been criticized for overlooking these activities. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Southeast Asia's organized crime economy, encompassing the illegal trade in drugs and wildlife, was estimated to be worth $130 billion in 2019.