Dollar-starved Sri Lanka Seeks Relief Through Cannabis Export

Dollar-starved Sri Lanka is poised to shed an entrenched inhibition about allowing the commercial cultivation of cannabis. As of now, cultivation of the weed is banned except for use in indigenous medicine, and that too, under strict State control. But cannabis cultivation and export could be a money spinner given the burgeoning global market for the weed. Cannabis export could rake in millions if not billions of dollars with which Sri Lanka’s crushing foreign debt can be mitigated to an extent. The global cannabis market is set to increase with the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND) reclassifying cannabis as a “therapeutic product”. According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s external debt increased to USD 50 billion in the second quarter of 2021 from US$ 47 billion in the first quarter of 2021. Its foreign reserves are now down to US$ 2.3 billion. On November 30, the Lankan Minister of Indigenous Medicine, Sisira Jayakody, told parliament that government has decided to bring a law within three months to allow the cultivation of cannabis both for the manufacture of medicines locally and for export. “High quality medical cannabis can be used to treat cancer, neuro diseases, mental disorders, as a painkiller and also in the beauty culture industry. It can be used in the treatment of COVID. But it was banned when we were under British rule,” Jayakody said. Earlier, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had told a meeting in a rural area that he stood for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes as it is an ingredient in traditional Sri Lankan medicine. On October 7, 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had told parliament: “Our Government is considering requests for legalizing cannabis.”