Thanks to prohibition laws, the U.S. is a major buyer in the overseas trade in cannabis—especially hemp. Now, Sri Lanka has announced plans to begin producing high-quality medical cannabis that the country hopes to export to the U.S.
Sri Lanka Plans to Enter the Global Cannabis Market
The U.S. is a key player in the global cannabis market. For example, many Chinese hemp farmers would be looking for other opportunities if it weren’t so hard to produce cannabis products here in the U.S.
This is what happens when farmers are prohibited from cultivating a crop that textile-makers, soap-makers and other legal enterprises need. And this is why the U.S. is the main destination for much of the industrial hemp grown in China.
Industrial hemp and medical or recreational marijuana are the same species of plant. They’re all classified as cannabis sativa. The distinction between the two, according to the 2014 Farm Bill approved by Congress, is THC content.
Anything below 0.3 percent THC is legally defined as hemp. Anything above that threshold is considered marijuana.
That’s a remarkably low threshold. Something clocking in at 1 percent THC isn’t exactly going to be a hot commodity on the dark web, but so it goes. Until this market inefficiency is fixed, overseas farmers of cannabis have a guaranteed market in the U.S.
But some countries are also planning to start shipping marijuana to the United States—the stony kind. If all goes to plan, Israel will be the first, though how the country plans to navigate international treaties is an open question.
And now, Sri Lanka wants to follow suit.
According to the New Delhi Times, Sri Lankan health authorities have authorized the country’s first-ever legal marijuana grow operation on a 100-acre farm. The farm will be able to produce 25 tons of cannabis a year, a harvest that will supply both a local “indigenous medicine industry” and exports to the United States.
So far, the country is confident that it will not only be able to import cannabis to the U.S., but that it will produce better weed. Here’s how the Times put it:
“The minister said that there was a high demand in U.S. for the quality weed which is used to manufacture tranquilizers and painkillers. The farm would be able to produce over 25 tonnes a year and the production would be under the military protection. The locally produced cannabis will be much better than that of prepared in the U.S.”
Apparently, this is an important development for a couple reasons. Not only will it open up a potential new avenue for international trade, but it will also help advance a new, licensed domestic cannabis trade within Sri Lanka.
According to Rajitha Senaratne, the country’s Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, this licensed domestic trade in cannabis will supply domestic healers with viable medical marijuana.
For now, traditional healers and more mainstream doctors are limited to illegally grown cannabis that’s been seized and released by the courts. But by that time, Senaratne said, “it is already four to five years old and has lost its effectiveness.”
If all goes as Senaratne and others plan, a new, regulated approach to cannabis cultivation could help the country both domestically and internationally. But for now, many questions remain.
How Will the U.S. React?
For starters, there hasn’t been a plan yet for how Sri Lanka will get marijuana into the U.S. Similarly, it’s unclear which states would receive it, and how Sri Lanka plans to compete with the U.S.’s existing and robust medical marijuana industry—especially if industry leaders take offense at the claim that their weed is inferior.
So far, there has been no published American reaction to Sri Lanka’s plan to wow us with their weed, but once it does attract notice, we fear it won’t be positive.