Sri Lankan lawmakers are drawing up proposals that could see medical cannabis cultivation and exportation legalized.
Earlier this week a newly established Parliamentary Committee, formed of government ministers – including the Minister of Justice, State Tourism Minister and State Minister of Indigenous Medicine – gathered to discuss the possible passage of legislation that would reform cannabis laws in Sri Lanka.
Cannabis Consumption in Sri Lanka
As it stands, Sri Lanka has strict restrictions on the cultivation of cannabis, with exemptions permitted for indigenous medicines. Cannabis cultivation for Ayurvedic medicine is limited and sits under the control of the state.
However, in acknowledgment of the changing landscape of cannabis regulations around the world, Sri Lanka could soon be poised to follow suit in passing new legislation governing the plant.
Speaking to reporters, Sisira Jayakody, the Minister of Indigenous Medicine, outlined how new cannabis policies regarding the consumption of the plant would be exclusively for medical purposes, highlighting that the country has to “handle this with discipline”.
He continued: “We cannot allow it to be used for recreational purposes. But we can use cannabis and cannabis extracts for medicinal purposes.”
Commercial Cannabis in Sri Lanka
In addition to use for medical purposes, Sri Lankan lawmakers are acutely aware of the economic benefits that can be derived from producing commercial cannabis, as Jayakody acknowledged that “there is a large export demand”.
This sentiment has also been echoed by the State Tourism Minister, Diana Gamage, who has been reported to say that “dollar-starved Sri Lanka is poised to shed an entrenched inhibition about allowing the commercial cultivation of medical cannabis”.
It is well documented that 2022 has been a turbulent year for the country, with an economic crisis that has led to civil unrest, resulting from a dangerous depletion of food and healthcare supplies.
Sri Lanka relies heavily on tourism to bring external revenue into the country, an industry that has been decimated by the COVID pandemic. Rising US interest rates, paired with a drastic increase in the cost of oil, has compounded Sri Lanka’s financial peril.
The Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) report that “the local value of Sri Lanka’s substantial foreign currency debts has surged, causing the government to default in May. A weaker currency has pushed inflation to around 50%.”
It is thought that exporting commercial cannabis can help bolster the country’s foreign currency reserves, which as of July 2022, stood at less than $1bn.
In this, Sri Lankan lawmakers are wasting no time in progressing new cannabis policies, with Jayakody exclaiming that government officials have already “drawn up the legal provisions” and that such proposals will be presented to the cabinet in the coming days.
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