Most of the cannabis sold in Thailand would come from the United States

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Since Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to decriminalize cannabis, thousands of cannabis shops and businesses have sprung up, especially in Bangkok and tourist spots.

The legal framework was never clearly defined, however, and long-promised legislation failed to pass parliament in February, leaving the country without a law to regulate recreational cannabis use.

In addition to the legislative vagueness, a certain disappointment seizes the local actors. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul wanted to put them at the heart of national cannabis production, an announcement that did not materialize. They now face unexpected competition: illegal cannabis imports.

US imports flood Thailand

Kajkanit Sakdisubha, CEO and founder of Taratera, which operates cannabis farms and shops, told Reuters that illegal imports began when the post-decriminalization sales boom led to the depletion of the domestic supply.

“That’s when the imported flowers started arriving,” says Kajkanit.

According to three industry members, at least half of the cannabis sold in Thailand is smuggled in, although they have no estimate of the quantity or value of the imports.

Pro-cannabis activist and retailer Chokwan “Kitty” Chopaka said the United States was the main source of the cannabis that has flooded Thailand, especially in its tourist hubs.

“Much of the cannabis coming from the United States is destined for dispensaries in Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya,” she said.

Local farmers impacted

Pornchai Padmindra of the Thai Industrial Hemp Trade Association, which has about 300 members, said that as profit margins shrink, many growers are considering exiting the industry.

“People are struggling,” he said. “Things are getting tough. »

The large quantities of cannabis smuggled from abroad have indeed depressed wholesale prices and ultimately to growers.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce has estimated the sector could be worth $1.2 billion by 2025, but cultivator Srapathum Natthapong, 37, who has invested much of his savings to get into the industry, said said he had seen his income decline.

“At first, I could sell a kilo for between 350,000 and 400,000 baht (10,000 to 11,000 euros),” Srapathum Natthapong, a cannabis grower who operates three indoor farms, told Reuters.

In April, the date of the next harvest, Srapathum expects the price to have fallen to 200,000 baht (5,500 euros) per kilo.

“Smuggling harms us,” he said.

1.1 million people in Thailand have registered with the government to grow cannabis. It is not known if all do this or how many people grow cannabis without registering.

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