Cannabis: A potential source of foreign exchange | Sunday Observer

Cannabis: A potential source of foreign exchange

9 July, 2022

The Government will allow the commercial cultivation of Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) once the relevant recommendations are issued by the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), Plantations Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana told Parliament recently. This was in the context of a renewed debate on the viability and ethics of commercial cultivation of Cannabis in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Wasantha Welianga, who has been engaged in research on Cannabis for several decades, said attention should be paid to the commercial exploitation of Cannabis in the backdrop of the current foreign exchange crisis as Cannabis can be exported in raw form or as finished products such as medicines to countries where it has been legalised for recreational and medicinal use. He notes that out of the 15 species of Cannabis grown in Sri Lanka, several varieties are good candidates for producing various medicines for export. Moreover, Cannabis can also attract tourism dollars, he said.

Ayurvedic Physician Palitha Geeganaarachchige said Cannabis has been consumed in Sri Lanka since ancient times. Several historical texts allude to the medicinal use of Cannabis here. It is believed that Cannabis-mixed medicines improve physical and mental health and cure many ailments. Such medicines have been used both in Ayurveda and Siddha Yunani traditions for centuries. He says Cannabis mixed medicines can be an answer to the current pharma crisis in Sri Lanka.

Miraculous cure

Cannabis is described as a miraculous cure for many ailments, even serious ones. One main reason for its effectiveness is that it soothes the mind, which in turn heals the body. This has been proved correct, as mental tension is a cause for many bodily ailments. In addition, Cannabis mixed medicines work rapidly within the body, curing ailments in record time.

A book on the medicinal uses of Cannabis authored by E.J. Toring in 1868 mentions that Cannabis mixed medicines can be used to treat tetanus, rabies, epilepsy, nervous system disorders, cholera, joint pain, asthma and skin diseases. It can also be used to reduce pain and contractions in childbirth.

Many European countries permit the cultivation of Cannabis for medicinal use and some for recreational use. George Washington, the first President of the US, undertook research on this crop. Former US President Bill Clinton has also spoken in favour of Cannabis cultivation.

Cannabis is literally the world’s fastest-growing cultivation, with many countries legalizing it. Australia did so for medicinal use in 2016 while around 28 US States now allow the cultivation and sale of Cannabis. The Netherlands has always had lax regulations on Cannabis. Canada too has relaxed laws governing the cultivation and use of Cannabis while Uruguay allows Cannabis cultivation in home gardens.

According to the European Investment Bank (EIB), there will be a 1,000 per cent growth in Cannabis cultivation and sales around the world in the next decade. Global Cannabis sales are projected to exceed US$ 140 billion by 2027, out of which US$ 52 billion will be derived from legal Cannabis sales.

According to Dr. Dannister L. Perera, USA, Canada, Israel, UK and the Netherlands are among the leading countries in terms of Cannabis research. Many countries have stressed the need to revise and reform the outdated laws and regulations governing the cultivation, sale and use of Cannabis and also the need to revise the United Nations (UN) Conventions on the same issue.


Patents have been obtained for Cannabis products as far back as 1942. More than 1,500 such patents have been issued during the past 25 years. Around 25 per cent of them are for medicinal products while 650 patents had been issued for pharmaceuticals containing Cannabis. These drugs are being used to treat coughs, vomiting, multiple sclerosis, lung diseases and nerve diseases.

Many countries are now using the term ‘medicinal Cannabis’. Cannabis cultivation is legally allowed for medicinal purposes in the Indian regions of Bihar, Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal. Cannabis cultivation is also legal in the UK, Denmark, Australia, Lesotho and Germany. Many countries are relaxing laws governing other uses of Cannabis.

The strands of the Cannabis plant can be used to manufacture ropes, oil and paper. The first editions of many famous books such as Alice in Wonderland were actually printed on paper made out of Cannabis.


In fact, a one acre Cannabis cultivation can produce four times the quantity of paper produced from one acre of conventional trees. Thus precious trees can be saved if Cannabis is used for producing paper for newspapers, books and magazines.

Cannabis does not need any fertiliser and agrochemicals to grow. There is no scientific proof yet that Cannabis is harmful to mental or physical health. It is thus essential to negate the negative sentiments on Cannabis that exist in Sri Lankan society and show how it has been intertwined with our history and culture for centuries.