China Now Cultivates More Than Half of the World’s Legal Hemp
September 5th, 2017
China is responsible for the export of trillions of dollars worth of goods of all types across the globe. Clothing, electronics, furniture, and machinery are some of the country’s biggest exports, but there’s one thing that China could soon bring to the rest of world that you may not expect: cannabis.
According to a recent article in the South China Morning Post, the Asian superpower now cultivates more than half of the globe’s legal hemp. The plant is easy to grow throughout the varying climates of China, from frostier areas around Mongolia to the subtropical provinces near Bangladesh and Myanmar. It’s also extremely valuable, fetching more than 10,000 yuan ($1,500) per hectare, which is far more than other traditional crops such as corn and soybeans.
China does have a hardline approach when it comes to cannabis containing THC (possessing more than five kilos can get you the death sentence), but officials have largely turned a blind eye to farmers growing plants containing less than 0.3 percent THC (considered an international threshold). In some areas, such as Yunnan province, the cultivation of cannabis is now regulated. Law enforcement are afraid to shut down any illegal grow operations because of potential protests by farmers who rely on the cash crop to feed their families.
The boom in the number of farmers beginning to cultivate cannabis has been attributed to China’s research and development of the plant, something that began in the late 1970s when the country went to war with Vietnam. At the time, the government was interested in the potential hemp had as a breathable, antimicrobial fabric for military uniforms, as well as its potential medical benefits. After this extensive research, China now holds more than half of the over 600 cannabis-related patents in the world.
Analysts are wondering if China is ahead of the game in their R&D of cannabis, and if they will use their massive amounts of IP to their advantage. As the United States and Canada begin clinical trials of cannabis medicines for epilepsy, MS, and other illness, China may already have similar drugs already trademarked.
“Because cannabis in Western medicine is becoming accepted, the predominance of Chinese patents suggests that pharmaceutical sciences are evolving quickly in China, outpacing Western capabilities,” said Dr. Luc Duchesne, of InvestorIntel. “[Chinese traditional medicine] is poised to take advantage of a growing trend. The writing’s on the wall: westernised Chinese traditional medicine is coming to a dispensary near you.”
In another sign of changing times, the People’s Liberation Army recently teamed with Beijing-based Hemp Investment Group to create a drug used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The military is currently conducting final stage trials of the medication with promising results. If and when the drug goes to market, it could put China at the forefront of the so-called “Green Rush.”
Tan Xin, president of Hemp Investment Group, believes that cannabis will, “grow into a 100 billion yuan industry for China in five years’ time.” The PTSD drug being developed is only one of many potential products for the global market, according to the firm’s website. Hemp Investment Group intends to bring cannabis to all member countries in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, an infrastructure scheme to link China with the rest of Asia and beyond. They already have offices in the United States and are about to open in Canada, Japan, Israel, and several European countries.
Like many other industries, the legal cannabis market is becoming a rat race with countries across the world fighting for a place at the top. While most analysts are paying attention to the multi-billion dollar pot businesses emerging in the United States and Canada, China’s massive hemp industry will most certainly enter the global stage sooner than later, potentially influencing the rest of the international market.
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