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Cannabis legalization is slowly spreading from Western countries to Asia. Many Thai companies are seeking opportunities to enter related markets.   © Reuters
Asia Insight

Pot of gold? Thailand leads slow push to legalize weed in Asia

Potential $8.5bn market looks tempting but experts advise caution

APORNRATH PHOONPHONGPHIPHAT, Nikkei staff writer | Southeast Asia

BANGKOK -- Thailand's general election in March had a potentially powerful side effect: It made a party that advocates the full legalization of marijuana the country's fifth-largest political force.

In a region that maintains some of the harshest narcotics laws on the planet, including death for trafficking, the cannabis taboo is beginning to go up in smoke. Even before the election, Thailand's junta became the first Southeast Asian government to legalize the drug for medicine and research, amending a strict 1979 law as a "New Year's gift" to the people after heavy lobbying by pro-cannabis groups.

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