China’s cannabis industry growing but prohibition persists

China has a latent contradiction between its industrial use of cannabis and the maintenance of stringent anti-cannabis laws. The world leader in hemp production, it produces about a third of the world’s hemp and exports significant quantities to the United States. Although it shows a growing economic interest in the plant, its consumption remains a social taboo.

China – Israel partnership to be discussed

Last week, China sent a delegation to Israel. Including agricultural entrepreneurs and researchers, the Chinese delegation is expected to meet with its Israeli counterparts working in the medical cannabis industry. This visit marks the intention to initiate scientific collaboration between the two governmental sectors, according to A. Shmulewitz, CEO of Therapix Biosciences Ltd, who is accompanying the Chinese group. His company, based on the outskirts of Jerusalem, is working on the development of pharmaceutical products composed of cannabinoids.

The delegation will meet the eminent figures in research and industry who are currently working to create new products and discover new therapeutic applications for the plant. Israel is a world leader in cannabis R&D. About 70 Israeli startups are currently developing cannabis-related technologies or products. Moreover, the country’s government has just approved an export law. On the other hand, thanks to its large hemp production, a dynamic business sector, and many scientists, China has the potential to become a super-powerful cannabis power. It could greatly benefit from Israeli expertise in this field.

Chinese cannabis factory

China’s cannabis industry fast growth

Despite the taboo on cannabis in China, Chinese companies are already positioned to reach foreign markets in Europe and America. In the Xishuangbanna Industrial Eco-Park in Yunnan Province, for example, CannAcubed produces CBD and hemp clothing for export to Europe. The Chinese investors stock market analysis site also announced that it was investing in the XiBiDi laboratory, which is to produce cosmetics and pharmaceutical products based on CBD. Chinese investors have also launched their own website which is responsible for delivering products containing CBD to all countries where it is legal. With the legalization of hemp at the federal level in the United States, the American CBD market promises to explode.

Chinese companies are also looking to develop new pharmaceutical products for patenting. Beijing-based investment firm HIG announced a partnership with the army to create CBD-based products that could treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The demand for such a product is extremely high in the United States, where veterans have been campaigning for several years to obtain cannabis legalization as a medical treatment. HIG has also partnered with Health International Industry Group, a Hong Kong-based pharmaceutical company, to develop new cannabis drugs. “We estimate that the sector will become an industry of 90 billion yuan (15 billion US dollars) for China within five years,” says HIG President Lan Bin.

China maintains stringent drug laws

Despite China’s emerging cannabis industry, its use (even outside the country) and especially its trafficking remain punishable by stringent laws, including life imprisonment and the death penalty. In a 2017 annual report, Amnesty International estimated that China had executed more people than the rest of the world combined, even though the number of executions remains classified as a state secret. China sometimes conducts public theatrical trials where it stages these convictions. In 2018, the public trial of 10 individuals sentenced to death attracted thousands of Chinese people to a stadium. Of the ten convicted, seven were charged with drug trafficking.

Since 2010, at least a dozen foreigners have been executed in China for drug trafficking. The most recent conviction is that of a 37-year-old Canadian, Robert L. Schellenberg, convicted of drug trafficking in a court in the northern city of Dalian. He had appealed against his first sentence (15 years in prison), but in the context of the deterioration of Chinese Canadian diplomatic relations, he was sentenced to death.

The Chinese attitude is, in some respects, reminiscent of Colombia’s contradictions, but in a much more extreme way. The latter has sought to attract the international cannabis industry and has gradually become a production platform. However, it has recently identified the use of small amounts of cannabis. This kind of posture is a sign of a gap between the economic and social vision of marijuana and shows that a form of liberalism does not necessarily accompany the development of the cannabis industry.

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