SL to export medical cannabis

  • Indigenous Medicine Ministry to submit Bill to Parliament
  • Steps to lift colonial era bans on indigenous drugs


BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development, and Community Health State Ministry is to submit a Bill to Parliament seeking legal approval to export cannabis sativa within the next three months.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday (30 November), Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development, and Community Health State Minister Sisira Jayakody said: “We have taken all necessary steps to obtain the necessary legal approval through the Parliament within the next three months only for the export of medicinal cannabis.”

He added that quality and medicinal cannabis, which can be used to treat cancer and neurological diseases as well as in the cosmetics field, was banned by western nations during the colonial era.

“At present, we are confined to traditional legal frameworks. Especially during the colonial period, the western nations banned indigenous drugs in our country. However, we are now taking the necessary steps to amend such laws and legalise those drugs.”

Cannabis sativa is a plant native to Central Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent which has been used as a drug for both recreational and entheogenic purposes and in various traditional medicines. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component of cannabis, which is one of the 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD).

The global cannabis market is estimated to be valued at $ 20.5 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $ 90.4 billion by 2026, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28% in terms of value.

The Poisons, Opium, and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1929 as amended, criminalised cannabis. However, the Ayurveda Act No. 31 of 1961 as amended has allowed Ayurvedic physicians to obtain cannabis for the manufacture of their medicinal preparations.

Several parliamentarians including Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Diana Gamage, who is currently supporting the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led Government, and SLPP MP Uddika Premarathna have pointed out that Sri Lanka could earn significant export revenue by allowing the cultivation and export of cannabis.

Gamage recently said that the country can stand alone and solve its debt crisis by allowing the export of cannabis oil instead of pleading to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors. She added that if the country can throw out the British-made legislation and allow the cultivation and export of cannabis, it would be able to earn millions of dollars by exporting cannabis oil.

“This country has now been an independent country for 73 years and we should, therefore, no longer be under these colonial laws,” she noted.

Referring to cannabis as a God-given cash crop, Gamage quoted the European Investment Bank as having stated that the global trade in cannabis would grow 1,000% in a period of 10 years.

Meanwhile, Premarathna last week told the Parliament that the country should consider allowing the export of cannabis, and permit the production of moonshine (illicit liquor).

He claimed: “Gamage has been talking about cannabis. Coconut, Kithul, and Palmyrah Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification State Minister Arundika Fernando has been talking about moonshine, which is a very good solution to the US dollar issue and the current economic crisis in the country. The world has called our moonshine, arrack.”