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Dollar-starved Sri Lanka seeks relief by exporting cannabis

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Dollar-starved Sri Lanka is preparing to scrap a long-established ban on allowing commercial cannabis cultivation. As of now, the cultivation of weed is prohibited except for its use in indigenous medicine, and that too under strict state control.

But growing and exporting hemp can be a money-spinner given the burgeoning global market for weed.

The export of cannabis can generate millions if not billions of dollars in which Sri Lanka’s external debt can be relieved to some extent. The global cannabis market is set to increase with the reclassification of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND) as a “therapeutic product”.

According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s external debt increased to 50 billion US dollars in the second quarter of 2021 from 47 billion US dollars in the first quarter of 2021. Its foreign reserves have now decreased to 2.3 billion US dollars.

On November 30, the Minister of Indigenous Medicine, Sisira Jayakudy, informed Parliament that the government had decided to pass a law within three months to allow cannabis cultivation for the manufacture of medicines locally and for export.

“High-quality medical cannabis can be used to treat cancer, neurological diseases and mental disorders, as a pain reliever and also in the beauty culture industry. It can be used in the treatment of COVID. It was banned when we were under British rule,” Jayakudi said.

Earlier, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said at a meeting in a rural area that he advocated the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes because it is an ingredient in Sri Lankan traditional medicine. On October 7, 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament: “Our government is studying cannabis legalization requests.”

the challenge

However, a change of policy on cannabis could hit severe weather. As of now, cannabis trading is illegal in Sri Lanka. The government takes a tough stance on the possession and sale of narcotics, with fines and prison sentences.

The Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Act states: “No person, without a license from the Minister, may sow, sow, sow, obtain or possess in possession of the poppy plant, the coca plant, or the hemp plant, or collect or have in his possession seeds, pods, or Leaves, flowers, or any part of any such plant.”

The law further states: “No person shall collect, prepare, process, sell, offer for sale, manufacture, store, obtain, possess, distribute or use (a) any resin obtained from the cannabis plant for preparations or extracts of the cannabis plant known as bhang, hashish, ganja or any other preparation from which this resin is formed.”

While there have been calls for the legalization of cannabis cultivation in the country (since many Western countries have lifted the ban) Sri Lankan religious leaders have protested vigorously. In 2020, Finn. Dhammalankara Thera (Archbishop of Kotte Sri Kalayani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha of Siyam Maha Nikaya) said lifting the ban would lead to a “national problem”.

The medical fraternity also appears to oppose it. According to the Sri Lankan National Council on Mental Health (NCMH), cannabis “abuse” can cause serious psychological and social effects. “Cannabis use is associated with apathy, sedation, and purging. Cognitive impairment and poor self-care. Cannabis use may also increase the risk of psychotic disorders and lead to a poor prognosis for those with a consistent susceptibility to psychosis. The prevalence of cannabis use is higher among people with psychosis in the NCMH,” says the NCMH. our country.”

However, the NCMH recognizes the medicinal benefits of cannabis-based preparations. This is because these are made according to strict Ayurvedic principles.

global market boom

Whatever the case, the lure of dollars is stronger than other considerations, especially when Sri Lanka is in dire financial straits.

Indian trade specialist Sohail Abedi, who writes for the Trade Promotion Board of India website, says the global market for cannabis (CBD), a chemical in hemp, is expected to grow at a rate of 21.8% in value terms, from US$5.49 billion (in 2019) to $26.25 billion by 2027.

This is primarily due to the increased use of CBD in medical applications, supplements, beverages, and skin care. CBD products have been promoted for a wide range of health issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, drug addiction, and acne, among many other things,” says Abedi.

He points out that stigma has been associated with cannabis use because it is confused with marijuana, both of which belong to the cannabis family. Hemp contains two psychoactive compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The high percentage of THC in marijuana is responsible for its use of getting “high”. Legal hemp should contain 0.3% THC or less, which isn’t enough to get you “high,” he points out.

CBD is a derivative of cannabis that is clinically important and is sold in the form of gels, chewing gums, oils, supplements, and extracts. Abedi says that hemp seeds are known to be a “superfood” that can boost immunity.

According to El-Obeidi, the cannabidiol market is likely to see significant investments in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide. The first CBD drug ‘Epidiolex’ has been approved by the US Federal Drug Agency, validating some of the therapeutic benefits of CBD.

Mad in the United States

In 2019, for the first time, CBD became one of the 40 best selling ingredients in mainstream retail outlets in the United States. Cannabidiol sales totaled $36 million, making it the ninth largest selling supplement. CBD sales increased by a remarkable 872.3% from 2018 to 2019 – the largest increase among the top 40 mainstream ingredients. Abedi points out.

It is estimated that 64 million adults in the United States have tried CBD in the past two years. Among those surveyed, the most common reason for taking CBD was to relax and reduce stress/anxiety. 64% rated CBD as “extremely effective or very effective.”

Abedi quotes ‘world’s top exports’ to say that hemp oils exported by all countries totaled US$2.9 billion in 2019. This was a 23.3% increase for all hemp oil exporters as of 2015. India was the second largest exporter by value $320.8 million USD. (11.1%) in revenue, after China which exported US$964 million (33.4% share) in 2019.

The export growth of some smaller countries was several times higher. For example: Vietnam (529.5% increase), Madagascar (232.2%), Morocco (218.1%) and the Netherlands (124.5%).

Abedi says governments must provide the right direction, policy and regulatory framework for the medical cannabis industry to thrive. He noted that the excessive regulatory grip on the opium industry has steadily reduced the number of licensed growers, which has significantly reduced exports. Citing the Indian example, he says, “India exported 98 tons in 2016. But in 2018 it fell to 48 tons, and in 2019 it fell to 14 tons, according to ITC trade map data.”

Cannabis and its derivatives are prohibited in India under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985. However, India voted to decriminalize cannabis at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND) in December 2020. Therefore, action must be taken to decriminalize cannabis. In India you may track.

Last year, Pakistan allowed hemp to be grown as an export crop because that country is also suffering from a shortage of dollars.

In Bangladesh, the Anti-Narcotics Act 1990 declared that all drugs, including marijuana, are illegal. According to the law, growing, producing, processing, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, supplying, buying, selling, possessing, keeping, storing, displaying or using any type of drug including marijuana is illegal. But the law permitted the manufacture, processing, import, export, import, purchase and sale of drugs of any approved drug or to conduct any scientific research, provided that this is done under a license.

However, Bangladesh is unlikely to allow cannabis to be grown as a commercial crop because Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has turned her face against the drug, however mild and harmless it may be. Her government had launched a killing spree to ruthlessly wipe out drug dealers.

Grow guide for marijuana beginners.

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