Sri Lanka’s health minister, Rajitha Senaratne, announced the country will be home to Asia’s first medical cannabis plantation. Cannabis will not be cultivated for recreational purposes.
The plantation will be spread over a 100 acres in the northern regions of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. The plantation aims to produce around 25,000kg of cannabis per annum. Cannabis produced will be used to manufacture Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a South Asian system of medicine that’s popular in Western countries such as the USA.
All cannabis products produced at the plantation will be shipped for sale in the USA and Canada, meaning the domestic market will not benefit from this important development.
The production of cannabis at this new plantation will be tightly controlled. Local farmers will be directly employed by the state and the military will supervise production to ensure none of the product finds its way into the domestic market.
It’s unlikely private enterprises will be able to produce cannabis in Sri Lanka for some time. When the time comes for this to happen, private companies will need to apply for permits and strict conditions will apply to those permits, according to Senaratne in a statement he made in the Sunday Observer.
Cannabis was initially illegalised in Sri Lanka in the nineteenth century. The law was imposed on the native population at the hands of British colonialists. Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948, but the country has chosen to retain cannabis prohibition. It’s illegal to produce, sell or possess cannabis in Sri Lanka under the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Act.
Like many countries around the world, Sri Lanka is now willing to admit that cannabis has many medical benefits for its citizens. Opinion on this matter is influenced by the popularity of Ayurvedic, a South Asia system of medicine that utilises cannabis for medical purposes.
Ayurvedic practitioners were before this development waiting for the authorities to release seized batches of illegal cannabis in order to produce their medicines. It could take up to five years for this cannabis to be released, meaning seized cannabis had lost most of its medical properties due to the passage of time.
Now, Ayurvedic practitioners will have access to freshly produced cannabis. Fresh and high-quality cannabis will improve the quality of Ayurvedic medicines produced in Sri Lanka.
Cannabis produced in Sri Lanka will not smoked, but instead used in syrups. These cannabis-containing syrups will then be used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Many experts are saying this development is a watershed moment for how cannabis is perceived across Asia. Before this development, there were no countries in Asia that allowed the production of cannabis for medical reasons.
The Sri Lankan Government says production will begin towards the end of 2018.