China Is Muscling Its Way Into the CBD Market
While marijuana remains illegal in China, hemp has been a massive business there for nearly a century. Now, the country is about to start producing CBD.
Published on May 6, 2019

The world’s most populous country is poised to dominate the global CBD market.

According to a New York Times story published on Saturday, two of China’s 34 regions, Heilongjiang and Yunnan, have quietly entered the CBD game. Although the nation currently provides half of the world’s hemp products, cashing in on CBD is relatively new.

“It is very good for people’s health,” Tian Wei, a general manager at CBD company Hempsoul, told the New York Times. “China may have become aware of this aspect a little bit late, but there will definitely be opportunities in the future.”

Hemp, the kind of weed that doesn’t cause psychoactive intoxication, has always been legal in China. Besides producing half of the world’s cannabis, China also owns half of the world’s cannabis patents — over 300 in all — mostly for inventions that extract, process, or manufacture CBD.

Currently, only four Chinese companies hold special licenses to grow and process hemp for CBD. Over 36,000 hectares have been approved for hemp cultivation, and the revenue looks promising: farmers can expect $300 per acre, the New York Times reports. That’s more than farmers could earn from other crops that can be turned into textiles or nutritional supplements, like rapeseed or flax. 

With estimates predicting the global CBD market will reach $22 billion by 2025, demand for China’s hemp should grow, as well. China already controls a substantive chunk of the world’s cannabis market, too. America’s glassware, vaporizer parts, and even hemp clothing and paper primarily originate from Chinese manufacturers.

“You can’t make hemp clothing in the U.S. because the country no longer has sufficient expertise in textile production,” Bryan DeHaven, owner of the cannabis clothing brand Chiefton Supply Co., told Civilized last year.

Meanwhile, marijuana with THC has been outlawed in China since the '40s. The nation has some of the harshest anti-weed laws on the books, with penalties for mere possession resulting in a life — or death — sentence.

In 2015, international superstar Jackie Chan begged Beijing officials to go easy on his son, Jaycee Chan, who faced a life sentence for simply keeping 3.5 ounces of green in his apartment. Beijing eventually showed mercy and released Jaycee after he served six months in prison.

Last year, an American college student, Matthew Fellows, almost received the death penalty in China for allegedly sharing a joint with another student at a Chinese university. He was released and returned to the States after a grueling eight-month prison sentence.

Will Beijing eventually lighten up on its zero-tolerance marijuana laws now that it’s banking on the West’s (and, possibly, the East’s) legal weed? Maybe not in our lifetimes, but here’s to the Middle Kingdom, someday, taking the high-road.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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