29 May, 2022


Sri Lanka Could Overcome The Recession By Legalising & Exporting Medical Cannabis

By Rajasinghe Bandara

Dr Rajasinghe Bandara

Minister of trade, Dr Bandula Gunawardane has been convinced by some experts about the global demand for medical cannabis and he commented to the media cannabis export could overcome country’s recession and pay off the foreign debts by 2025. Why shouldn’t we take the great opportunity to overcome the deep recession and relieve our long-suffered nation with enormous economic hardships. By the end of August 2020, total outstanding external debt of the Government was US$ 35.3billion. ‘Sri Lanka is making arrangements to repay or roll-over 6,865 million dollars of foreign debt in 2021’ co-cabinet spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanpila said. 

Cannabis well-known in Asia as Ganja and in the west as Marijuana had been classified globally as a harmful drug until recently mainly because of the legislations passed by our colonial masters for their own advantages. For example, cannabis (famously known as Ganja or Kansa in Sri Lanka) had been used as a medicine to cure numerous illnesses and for many other purposes in ancient Asia including Sri Lanka such as for food, textiles, recreational and even for sexual stimulation. But they were banned by the British governors to generate huge income for the British empire with the alcohol and opium trade. But recent research in the west discovered the health benefits of Marijuana and has been legalised it in almost all developed countries across the globe for both medicinal use and recreational purposes as it is least harmful compared to alcohol and tobacco. Cannabis is an essential ingredient of many Ayurvedic medicines and Sri Lankan Ayurveda experts have demanded from the government to legalise cannabis because of the significant health benefits. They say smoking cannabis does not give bad effect on human body.

It has been discovered the CBD oil extracted from cannabis plant can cure some rare form of diseases: On 25 June 2018, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older. 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, more commonly known as marijuana. However, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Some research also suggests Drugs containing Cannabidiol may be helpful in treating vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. In addition, some evidence suggests modest benefits of cannabis or Cannabidiol for chronic pain and multiple sclerosis symptoms. (Source: US Department of Health and Hunan Services)

CBD is a chemical that impacts the brain, making it function better without giving it a high along with THC which has pain relieving properties. Both substances can be extracted and enhanced for use through short path distillation. 

According to Ayurvedic experts, people in Asia have discovered the benefits of cannabis from primitive ages. The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fibre. In North America cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown on many plantations for use in rope, sail, clothing and paper. The history of cannabis cultivation in America dates back to the early colonists, who grew hemp for textiles and rope.

Despite all the facts and amazing benefits, cannabis cultivation in Sri Lanka has been a criminal offence since colonial era and, the police Special Task Force and the security forces have been ordered to destroy them to increase government income through legal alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately, it was the strategy used by our colonial rulers.

According to the campaigners and the experts who contributed to legalise marijuana in the west including Canada, the USA, Europe and the UK, one of the major products multiple companies willing to buy from Sri Lanka is, medical Cannabis, in the form of CDB Oil and Hemp Powder. The demand for this product has been increased by fourfold in the last year. 

There is a massive demand for medical cannabis in an industrial scale from all over the world including Europe, the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada. The cold countries those have legalised cannabis such as Canada, the U.K. allow farmers to grow them in greenhouses, but the products do not contain sufficient compounds/chemical substances required to produce high quality CBD Products required for medicines. For example, the CBD Oils – which have been introduced to the market ranging from 2.5% (250mg) Strength to 10% (1000mg) Strength. Green house grown cannabis products, usually, do not contain required strength and the quality therefore naturally grown products would be more attractive in the market. Litre of these variants can range between $800 to $2000 in the global market.

Cannabis grown in natural sunlight and weather conditions is the best variety for medical use. Currently one of the main suppliers is California because they have favourable weather to grow cannabis. Cannabis generates over $11 Billion per annum for the local economy in California and it can be easily replicated in the Sri Lankan market.

Cannabis can also be used to produce value added products:

Confectionery – This product can be mixed with confectionery products such as biscuits, chocolates, ice creams and many other healthy treats.

Drinks – Leaf powder, hemp powder (Seed powder after oil extraction) and CBD oil can be used in Energy drinks and various other soft drinks.

Hemp Powder  Rich source of protein that is used for Vegan alternative to dairy milk, proteins and the by-product of the oil extraction can be used as an additional income for manufactures.

Herbal Tea – Using dried leaf.

Supplements – developing capsules and tablets using Oil and leaf powder.

Beauty Products – CBD Oil and Leaf Juice can be used in beauty products which helps to reduce wrinkles and acne.

Commercial Opportunity

Sri Lanka has perfect climatic conditions and fertile land to grow cannabis when compared with many countries in the world.  But we should not forget in some other countries in Asia, Africa also has similar climatic and weather conditions. Therefore, before it is too late President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and his government should make a wise decision to attract the global market.  This is a market that is set to be worth over a Trillion Dollars in the next decade.

Despite experts’ views about the benefits of legalising cannabis, the government has been reluctant to do it and encouraging people to use legal alcohol and tobacco since it is one of the best sources of government income, disregarding the serious harmful effects on the consumers. Excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking tobacco cause heart attacks, liver problems, cancer etc. The government has convincing evidence from the experts and published research reports, and the enough support from various pressure groups including the Ayurveda experts to legalise it confidently. Therefore, it is time for Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as the president, to make a vice decision for the country and Its people before it is not too late not to lose the market opportunity.  Some countries in Asia already ahead of us, like India and Thailand.  

In addition to medical cannabis government can also consider legalising the farming for recreational purpose focusing on the export market as many countries have decriminalised Marijuana for recreational purposes. Modern technologies and surveillance systems can be used effectively to prevent people abusing the farming and the productions. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s briefing at the parliament 07 October 2020, said ‘Our government is considering the requests for legalizing cannabis.’ Government has taken more than enough time to consider it and should not postpone making a right decision if we were to overcome the recession.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Export Cannabis?
    Yes, a very good idea. This of course will enhance our reputation in the consumer countries. We may even be more famous than Colombia. The LTTE had the foresight to start a submarine building industry, so we could use those for transport, as the Colombians do.
    There may be other advantages. The American DEA might take an active interest and kidnap Nande and his government, as they have done in other banana republics. That would definitely be a good thing.

    • 0

      @old codger

      Why do you hate SL so much?. Calm down. I can’t imagine what happened to you to hate the SL so much. I don’t think you have ever said anything good about SL in here. Like, ever. You know that LTTE were terrorists, right. They butchered humans. And the SL Army was forced to kill the people that the LTTE used as human shields.

  • 5

    Ganja or hemp was a direct competitor to the cotton industry of the southern colonies of America. Hence it was banned. Along with propaganda about its alleged dangers. Ganja is a cash crop as the author correctly points out. The problem is Sri Lankans see the word drugs and immediately confuse mind altering substances from the earth like Ganja and mushrooms and with chemicals like cocaine, crack, heroin and pills which are dangerous. Here’s where the ministry of indigenous medicine and dept of agriculture needs to step up to the plate with their research.

    • 3

      Science doesn’t differentiate between “hemp” and “marijuana,” the law does.
      “Hemp” is cannabis with 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight.
      THC content can vary among cannabis plants. Some strains are bred to be higher in THC than others.
      Cannabis plants have been designated as Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or a hybrid. Each has its own purported characteristics and effects, although science has yet to verify this.

      • 0

        “Science doesn’t differentiate between “hemp” and “marijuana,” the law does.”
        So every time when legal authorities wanted to have identified the both substances, instead of using scientific analysis, they call the UOJ saddampies to diffrenciate those by their trading & using experiences?

  • 4

    Dr RB

    Thank you.

    I hope we will do this sometime later once we have all matters under control say for another 10 years of a stable government delivering law and order foundation first please.

    Let us be educated as to who is supplying all the illicit substances to SL and to have a broader control we could be proud then all ventures are possible…as this should be part of the self-sufficiency drive too.

    At the moment this sound like throwing in the spanner to the works or the opium days in China etc.

    We should focus on replacing the tea with heathy food production for the Nation at large in a scientific and sustainable way so we can employ the entire SL citizens in this sector.

  • 4

    There is a strong case for legalizing cannabis and several countries have done it.
    From Wikipedia:
    Countries that have legalized recreational use of cannabis are Canada, South Africa, and Uruguay, plus 14 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia in the United States and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia.
    Countries that have legalized medical use of cannabis include Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Others have more restrictive laws that allow only the use of certain cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, such as Sativex, Marinol, or Epidiolex.[7] In the United States, 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis, but at the federal level its use remains prohibited for any purpose.[8]
    But the economics of making medical cannabis an export commodity has to be thought through.

  • 3

    15 countries which include Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and the Czech Republic have legalized the use of specified quantities of Marijuana. Sri Lankan firms in export processing zones should be permitted to export Ayurvedic herbs approved by the relevant authority. This should also include tea with Marijuana flavor, approved by the Tea Board.

  • 0

    “15 countries which include Canada, Netherlands, South Africa ” are not countries exporting medical marijuana to recover from recession. Instead of putting their youngsters in prison for life time per their existed laws, they though of giving a monitored chance will restore their life. This is nothing but “America doing war crime in ME so we are doing genocide of Tamils”. Lankawe politician foolishly advocated socialism & nationalized Ceylon’s outstanding, prominent, exclusive industries, now want to export narcotics for economic recover. The same shameless crows are renting their women in folk ME. . Is that why Mathusa was killed- to take full control of the export?
    We grantee once this export starts, Lankawe will the retaliation from world, it faced when Mangala Introduced the Foreign Exchange Fraud Amnesty Bill (2017). EU & FTFA listed Lankawe as money launderers’ heaven and the exchange rate tumbled about 70 rupees. from 130 to 200 per dollar. Anyway, according Marx opium is as bad as religions. It is not a solution for Holy Socialistic Lankawe.

  • 2

    thank you Dr.RB. Sri lanka needs to strengths its legal system and move forward with the matter . it should get the real benefit for the country. Income will have for the country and the industry and jobs will have to be generated for the betterment of the people of this country. not the benefit of few politicians. if the law and order is not strong, this money bath will not benefit for the SL economy at all.

  • 3

    I believe Legalisation of Medical Cannabis , exportation of Medical Cannabis will open a grate international market place for sir Lanka and it will be economically profitable to the nation.
    It will also be a solution for unemployment in sir Lanka and it will employ, directly or indirectly over hundred thousand of people if not million.

    Use of medical cannabis is prevalent in European as a prescription to many diseases and scientist has identified myriad of medical benefits that reduce the suffering of millions around the world.
    (chronic illnesses,Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, seizures, hepatitis C, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and severe nausea are a few of them)


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