Pakistan Creates Regulation Agency To Manage Medical Cannabis Program

The country has an estimated 70,000 acres of land that can be used for legal cultivation.

Recent moves in Pakistan to embrace medical cannabis could open many doors for the South Asian country. In February, an ordinance was passed by Pakistan president Arif Alvi which issued the creation of the Cannabis Control and Regulatory Authority (CCRA), “aimed at regulating the cultivation, extraction, refining, manufacturing, and sale of cannabis derivatives for medical and industrial purposes.” The CCRA will be made up of 13 board members which includes representatives from other government departments and intelligence agencies, according to Pakistan Today.

Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) chairman, Syed Hussain Abidi, shared that the creation of the CCRA is mandated by United Nations laws. “The UN laws say that if a country wants to produce, process and conduct sales of cannabis-related products, it must have a federal entity that will deal with supply chain and ensure international compliance,” Abidi told Al Jazeera. The PCSIR prepared the National Cannabis Policy in 2023, which the news outlet explained was the foundation for the ordinance.

Originally, the creation of an agency similar to the CCRA was proposed in 2020 under former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The most recent ordinance establishes a range of fees for violations, between 10 million to 200 million Pakistan rupees (or approximately $35,000 USD to $718,000 USD). It also enlists the help of the Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force to monitor illegal activity.

Cannabis cultivation has been illegal in Pakistan, but some of the country’s regions have had a long history of cultivation, which until now has been largely ignored by the government. The new ordinance will change that approach, as it requires a license to be approved to an applicant who is interested in cultivating. “Technically, now the cultivation is legal since the ordinance has been passed, but we are still in [the] process of developing rules and procedures and awaiting registration of the authority,” Abidi stated. Cultivation licenses will be issued for a five-year period, and the government will determine which regions cultivation will be permitted.

The northwest region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwest province of Balochistan have an estimated combined total of 28,000 hectares (or approximately 70,000 acres) of land where cannabis is currently cultivated. “We have a long-established tradition of cannabis cultivation. We need to avail this opportunity,” Abidi explained.

Many other entrepreneurs are looking to take part in the growing of medical cannabis, such as Aamir Dhedhi, who saw the healing properties of medical cannabis firsthand. He told Al Jazeera that he took his mother, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, to India in 2014 to visit doctors there. They recommended that she try CBD and it helped her manage her symptoms and reduced the tremors she experienced. “Seeing the oil’s impact on my mother’s wellbeing, this has grown into a passion project for me. Now, I want to help our local growers expand their production and help spread its usage,” Dhedhi said.

Now, Dhedhi is working with longtime farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to improve their businesses and update their operations to be more efficient and cultivate higher quality products. Currently, cultivators grow in full sun and organic growing methods with very little use of pesticides or other chemicals. “We have massive potential in this field to provide health benefits through CBD. There is an opportunity to provide cheaper medical alternatives to people, which can help our domestic users as well as [improve the] potential for export,” Dhedhi said. “That can bring in financial rewards to our local growers.”

Another grower located in the Tirah Valley, Suleman Shah, has been cultivating for eight years and shares Dhedhi’s passion for medical cannabis. Shah told Al Jazeera that the government hasn’t been a problem so far, but one of the challenges they face is competition from cannabis cultivated in the neighboring country of Afghanistan. “When there used to be cannabis cultivation in Afghanistan, we would often be in loss, unable to recoup our investment in growing the plant. But since [the] Taliban have placed a ban, our business is doing considerably better,” Shah said. The Afghan Taliban took back power in 2021.

Shah said that prior to the Taliban’s return to power, he was collecting 50,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $179 USD) per acre, but in the past year he has been able to collect 500,000 Pakistani rupees (or $1,797 USD). “If the government brings on the regulatory framework, it will only help the farmers more,” Shah said. “They can provide expertise to the farmers, help them research and grow better quality of products for the people, allowing to move beyond just the recreational use.”

Some people are concerned that Pakistan is too late to the game to make money off of medical cannabis, such as former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry. “My suggestion [in 2020] was simply that you allocate space for growth of the plant, issue international tenders for investors and let them come here,” Chaudhry said. “But we wasted our potential and threw away the time advantage. The world has moved forward.”

Formula Swiss co-founder Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen showed concern for oversaturation as other countries begin to legalize. “Germany has recently legalised it. China is a major producer. Latin American countries are doing it as well. So, you have a lot of production from different countries, but when everybody is a producer and seller, then who will be the buyer?” Krigslund-Hansen said. He also questioned if Pakistan would be able to keep up with the requirements and demand of licensed cultivation. “If you want to sell medical grade cannabis, it must be produced indoors, ensuring consistency and uniform production,” Krigslund-Hansen said. “When you grow it indoors, the electricity costs will be exceptionally high to keep the lights and air conditioning, all to make sure that the product remains top-grade throughout. And this will cost a significant amount of money.”

1 comment
  1. It was kinda hell before when I got here until I met this guy at the hotel who gave me this dude contact his weed were pretty cool like ones from Cali. I was forced to asked him about the weed after trying them, he is a very open minded person, he said he gets his stuffs from Amsterdam and Cali. He had other stuffs too that which I won’t mention here, you can reach him at ” green420days@gmailcom “

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