Despite having the largest population, China silent on the global cannabis debate
Marijuana has been one drug which is, to say the least, contentious, when debated, around the world. It’s a drug which has many advantages but which is handled, in most Western countries more strictly than more (potentially) dangerous alternatives. It’s a debate many governments want to be drawn on.
Despite these concerns and a long history of inaccurate categorization, Cannabis has already been legalized in some major countries of the world – either in part (decriminalization / legal for medical use) or in whole (legal for all uses including recreational) – China is a country which has remained steadfastly silent on the issue. In some ways, this is a surprise. China is usually one of the biggest markets for any commodity, by virtue of its population alone. The reality is, any ruling by the Asian country, on any subject, including Cannabis legalization, is sure to offer at least some significance, from an economic perspective, globally.
The question is then, how does the biggest nation in the world view the questions surrounding cannabis?
The Story from Way Back
Even though China might appear to have one of the strictest legislations in place around cannabis today, they didn’t start out that way. In fact, Cannabis originated in Asia with a large percentage of all Cannabis grown around the world, being grown in ancient China, historically. If existing records are anything to go by, farmers have even growing hemp (a close relative of Cannabis) plant in China, since as far back as 10,000 BC.
- Cannabis and Hemp was used in the manufacture of stronger bows (which meant arrows flew further than those of the enemy, something with clear significance.) Cannabis and hemp were the first ‘war plant’ approved in the country.
- Historical records also indicate that Hemp was used to make clothing.
- Ancient traditional medicine practitioners recommended the plant as a form of medicine. Unsurprisingly, it was delivered in form of tea – not smoked.
Historically, China has deeper roots in the cannabis subject than most of the western world.
China’s current approach to Cannabis
One would think such a history with the plant would make it easier to consider legalization in China. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Chinese government imposes sentences of up to 15 years in prison, for those caught in possession of the drug.
Penalties for those who might be involved in the illegal importation, growing and distribution of the drug are even more draconian. The death sentence is an option for courts presented with those who traverse this rule.
The government’s wish to fight against supporting the drug can also be seen in the way they attempt to influence the Canadian government’s approach to legalization. It’s hard not to see the situation from China’s point of view, given their domestic legislation and estimates suggesting that Canada may well provide in the region of 20% of the total illegal cannabis found in the Asian country.
One would think that a country so hell-bent on keeping its circulation of cannabis volumes at bay wouldn’t have anything to do with the plant. As usual, there is a level of hypocrisy on the issue.
- Some estimates put China at the top of the list in world production – potentially producing no less than 50% of the total global output.
- China holds nearly the same percentage in patents on Cannabis related concepts (products, production approaches and drugs derived from the drug.
- Chinese companies are responsible for 309 out of all the 606 cannabis patents in the world!
For a country that does not want to work with the plant, they hold a great deal of economic control over its future. As a result, China is likely to influence Western markets which are still attempting to catch up when it comes to research on how best to incorporate cannabis into their plans. By the time an application for an innovative product has been fashioned, they would most likely be forced to pay big to the Chinese Republic.
Considering the fact that cannabis is now more accepted in Western medicine – and with the rate of growth of Chinese research on the subject – there is also the possibility of the Chinese dominating all the medical marijuana stores there are in the West. That almost cripples the economy of the countries who even signed the plant into law in the first place.
What the future holds for China
From an economic standpoint, China is strategically positioned to be one of the biggest winners from any type of Global legal cannabis trade. The country doesn’t even have to get involved in sales and distribution themselves, since they already ‘hold the keys’ to more than half of available patents. Their ambitions are not slowing down, either.
More broadly, China may be slow to adopt the drug with the same sort of wide cultural acceptance, from its people. Cannabis brings up memories of the ‘Opium War’ which the British imposed, signaling what the Chinese refer to as their ‘Century of humiliation.’
No legislation change is in sight and the Chinese people are not going to accept even the risk of another drug century in the country. However, as usual, if Global markets open up, China is going to be smiling all the way to the bank.