August 10, 2022

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Sri Lanka could overcome the recession by legalising and exporting medical cannabis 

6 min read

A cannabis farm in California. Cannabis was used in ancient Asia as a medicine to cure numerous diseases and for many other purposes. The government has compelling evidence from experts and published research reports, as well as sufficient support from various stakeholders, including Ayurvedic experts, to safely legalize them

With the Rajasinghe Airport

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardane was convinced by some experts of the global demand for medical cannabis and told the media that cannabis exports could overcome the country’s recession and pay off the foreign debt by 2025. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of this great opportunity? to overcome the deep recession and relieve our long-suffering nation with enormous economic difficulties?

As of the end of August 2020, the government’s total outstanding external debt was $ 35.3 billion. “Sri Lanka is making arrangements to repay or extend foreign debt of $ 6,865 million in 2021,” said Udaya Gammanpila, spokesman for the co-cabinet.

Known as ganja in Asia and marijuana in the West, cannabis was classified as a harmful drug around the world until recently, largely due to the laws our colonial masters passed in their own favor.

For example, cannabis (known as ganja or kansa in Sri Lanka) was used as a medicine to cure numerous diseases and for many other purposes in ancient Asia including Sri Lanka, such as food, textiles, recreational activities and even sexual stimulation. But they were banned by the British governors in order to generate a huge income for the British Empire from the alcohol and opium trade.

However, recent research in the West has uncovered the health benefits of marijuana and legalized it for both medicinal and recreational uses in almost all developed countries of the world, as it is the least harmful of all compared to alcohol and tobacco.

Cannabis is an integral part of many Ayurvedic medicines, and Ayurveda experts from Sri Lanka have urged the government to legalize cannabis because of its significant health benefits. They say that smoking cannabis does not have any negative effects on the human body.

CBD heals

The CBD oil obtained from cannabis plants has been found to cure some rare forms of diseases: On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol). [CBD] oral solution used to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients aged two years and over. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.

CBD is a chemical component of the cannabis sativa plant commonly known as marijuana. However, CBD does not cause the intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Some research also suggests that drugs containing cannabidiol may be helpful in treating vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, as well as loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV / AIDS. Additionally, some evidence suggests modest benefits of cannabis or cannabidiol for chronic pain and symptoms of multiple sclerosis. (Source: U.S. Department of Health)

CBD is a chemical that affects the brain and improves its function without being high in value along with THC, which has pain relieving properties. Both substances can be extracted and improved for use by short path distillation.

Ayurveda view

According to Ayurvedic experts, people in Asia discovered the benefits of cannabis from primitive times. The oldest known written record of cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung from 2727 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while use in the Middle East spread throughout the Islamic Empire as far as North Africa.

In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere, where the Spaniards imported it to Chile for use as fiber. In North America, cannabis in the form of hemp was grown on many plantations for use in rope, sails, clothing, and paper. The history of cannabis cultivation in America dates back to the early colonists who grew hemp for textiles and rope.

For all the facts and amazing benefits, growing cannabis in Sri Lanka has been a criminal offense since colonial times. The police special task force and security forces were instructed to destroy them in order to increase the state’s income through legal alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately, it was the strategy of our colonial rulers.

Massive demand

According to the activists and experts who have helped legalize marijuana in the West, including Canada, the US, Europe and the UK, medical cannabis in the form of CDB oil is one of the main products that several companies are ready to buy in Sri Lanka and hemp powder. The demand for this product has quadrupled in the last year.

There is massive demand for industrial-scale medical cannabis from around the world, including Europe, the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. In the cold countries where cannabis has been legalized, like Canada and the UK, farmers can grow it in greenhouses. However, the products do not contain enough compounds / chemical substances necessary to produce high quality CBD products which are necessary for medicinal products.

For example the CBD oils that have been launched that range in strength from 2.5% (250 mg) to 10% (1,000 mg). Greenhouse cannabis products usually do not contain the required starch, and the quality of naturally grown products would be more attractive in the market. The liter of these variants can be between 800 and 2,000 US dollars on the world market.

Cannabis grown under natural sunlight and weather conditions is the best variety for medicinal purposes. California is currently a major supplier as the weather is favorable for growing cannabis. Cannabis generates over $ 11 billion annually for the local California economy and can easily be replicated in the Sri Lankan market.

Value-added products

Cannabis can also be used to make value-added products:

Confectionery – This product can be mixed with confectionery such as cookies, chocolates, ice cream, and many other healthy goodies.

Beverages – Leaf powder, hemp powder (seed powder after oil extraction), and CBD oil can be used in energy drinks and various other non-alcoholic beverages.

Hemp Powder – A rich source of protein used as a vegan alternative to milk, proteins, and the by-product of oil extraction, can be used as additional income for manufacturers.

Herbal tea – With dried leaf.

Dietary supplements – development of capsules and tablets with oil and powdered leaves.

Beauty Products – CBD oil and leaf juice can be used in beauty products to help reduce wrinkles and acne.

Commercial opportunity

Compared to many countries in the world, Sri Lanka has perfect climatic conditions and fertile land to grow cannabis. But we shouldn’t forget that some other countries in Asia have similar climates and weather conditions in Africa. Before it’s too late, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government should make a wise decision to attract the global market. This is a market that will be worth over a trillion dollars over the next decade.

Despite the views of experts on the benefits of legalizing cannabis, the government has been reluctant to do so and has encouraged people to consume legal alcohol and tobacco as it is one of the best sources of income in the state, with the serious harmful effects it has on consumers be disregarded. Excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking of tobacco cause heart attacks, liver problems, cancer, etc.

The government has compelling evidence from experts and published research reports, as well as sufficient support from various stakeholders, including Ayurvedic experts, to safely legalize them. Therefore, it is time for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make a wise decision for the country and its people before it is not too late not to lose the market opportunity. Some countries in Asia are already ahead of us, such as India and Thailand.

In addition to medicinal cannabis, the government may also consider legalizing recreational agriculture, with an emphasis on the export market, as many countries have decriminalized recreational marijuana. Modern technology and surveillance systems can be used effectively to prevent people from abusing agriculture and productions.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, briefing Parliament on October 7, 2020, said, “Our government is considering applications to legalize cannabis.” The government has taken more than enough time to think about it and shouldn’t postpone it, a real one Decision to make if we are to overcome the recession.

(Author is Operations Director – MTJ Global UK, educator and has previously taught information and communication technology. He is also a researcher and writer on Sri Lanka’s nature, wildlife and environment, and the common good living and working in the UK .)

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