Sri Lanka could recover from forex crisis with medical cannabis export legalization


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Sri Lanka, an island country located 30 kilometers south-east of India in the Indian ocean, is confronting a serious forex problem. 

So much so, in fact, that the government may even fail to repay its debt in the near future.

Fortunately, medical cannabis exports could hold the key for the country’s financial recovery.

Recent reports suggest that Sri Lanka may soon begin exporting the green plant in pharmaceutical form. The plan emerges amid the country’s struggle to obtain International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance for debt restructuring purposes.

State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Sisira Jayakody, discussed the subject during a meeting with parliament on Tuesday, November 30. Jayakody said that the legal framework to export medical cannabis will be introduced within the next three months.

The proposal from Jayakody, who acts as minister for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) political party, emerges amid the government’s struggle to deal with economic woes across the island nation.

Currently, import controls have been firmly imposed amid pleas for exporters and immigrants to usher foreign currency into the predominantly Buddhist country.

High quality medical cannabis can be used to treat cancer, neuro diseases, mental disorders, as a painkiller and also in the beauty culture industry. But it was banned when we were under British rule,” Jayakody is quoted as saying.

Approval for Sri Lanka’s medical cannabis exports expected within the next three months

Once the government gains parliamentary approval for medical cannabis exports in Sri Lanka an effort that is anticipated to take at least three months the MP confirmed that plant cultivation will be earmarked specifically for overseas trade.

Last year, Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardena said that the multi-religious country could generate some healthy revenue from medicinal cannabis exports. 

Notwithstanding Gunawardena’s optimistic outlook, members of the Sri Lankan government did not come to any solid agreement(s) for the 2020 proposal. 

In fact, State Minister of Internal Security and elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, was dead-set against previous attempts to legalize medical cannabis exports in Sri Lanka. 

Additionally, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has held up a stiff fight against the country’s legal cannabis promoters. On the plus side, Jayakody has reaffirmed the department’s plan to push forward with measures that will effectively legalize certain local cannabis-based medicines.

Jayakody is spearheading efforts to legalize cannabis in Sri Lanka and create medicinal gardens 

It’s not just medical cannabis exports that could help Sri Lanka to regain solid financial footing and potentially position the country as a spot for industry investment but also, the fact that Jayakody’s department has launched a project titled “Osudharanai Medicine Gardens” with the aim of developing medicinal gardens across the country’s verdant villages.

According to Jayakody, this project is made possible thanks to the fact that the government will be learning how to avoid exploiting foreign reserves reserves thaf would otherwise be dipped into to purchase raw materials for Ayurvedic medicine creation.

The importance of this is truly put into perspective when the following information is taken into account: within the first 10 months of 2021, a whopping USD$2.3 billion was consumed from Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves. 

This amount constitutes 40 percent of the entire fund, thus demonstrating the steep slope that reserves are encountering due to Sri Lanka’s trade deficit. That’s without even mentioning the slumping tourism revenue, which has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.