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Thailand Legalizes Medical Marijuana as New Year's Gift

The U.S. government gave its citizens the gift of a government shutdown for the holidays, but the people of Thailand received a far superior present from their legislature.

The Thai legislature approved a bill that legalizes medical marijuana in the country. This makes Thailand the first country in East Asia to legalize medical marijuana. Some Thai legislators described it as a gift to the people for the upcoming New Year.

"This is a New Year's gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people," said Somchai Sawangkarn, chairman of the legislative drafting committee.

Southeast Asia is known for having some of the harshest anti-drug laws in the entire world, and drug dealers can often be subject to the death penalty. So Thailand taking this major step in marijuana reform is a major development for the region. Many are hoping that this step will pave the way towards recreational legalization in the future.

However, the bill wasn't without controversy. Some Thai marijuana advocates wanted the government to insert protections against foreign companies receiving patents for cannabis, and allowing them to dominate the country's market. No protections were put in place, and some believe that this will mean local businesses will be pushed out of the Thai medical marijuana market.

A few other Asian countries are also considering legalizing medical marijuana, so perhaps this will be the first domino to fall in a series of countries making marijuana reforms.

(h/t CNBC)

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