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Tuesday January 25th, 2022
Economy

Sri Lanka considers medical cannabis export amid worst ever forex crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – Facing its worst forex crisis yet and a threat of sovereign default looming, Sri Lanka is considering a proposal to export medical cannabis amid strong resistance to seeking International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance in debt restructuring.

Sisira Jayakody, State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, told parliament on Tuesday (30) that Sri Lanka will introduce the legal framework necessary to export medical cannabis in the next three months.

The proposal from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) minister comes as the island nation’s government is slowly losing its grip on the economy with import controls tightly in place amid appeals to exporters and foreign migrants to bring foreign currency into Sri Lanka.

“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 said.

The MP said the government plans to seek parliamentary approval in the next three months for the export of medical cannabis cultivated in Sri Lanka and it will strictly be for export purposes only, he said.

In 2020, Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardena also said exporting medicinal cannabis will be profitable to Sri Lanka. However, there was no consensus for last year’s proposal in the government ranks, with Chamal Rajapaksa, older brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and State Minister of Internal Security, opposing it and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa declaring a tough stance against those promoting the legalisation of marijuana.

However, Jayakody on Tuesday (30) said the department is now taking measures to legalise some of the local medicines.

He also said, without spending fast-depleting foreign reserves to purchase  raw materials to produce Ayurvedic medicine, the department has now started a project under ‘Osudharanai Medicine gardens’  ‘ to create medicine gardens across villages in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves have depleted by around 70 percent in the first 10 months of the year to 2.3 billion US dollars. Reserves are on the declining trend given Sri Lanka has a trade deficit and its foreign remittances as well as tourism revenue have also been dwindling.

Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal had planned to boost the reserves through bilateral loans and currency swaps. However, nothing has been materialised so far, though Cabraal last week said discussions for swaps and government-to-government loans are under way but details were not revealed due to “radio silence”. (Colombo/Nov30/2021)

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