This Tuesday, Pakistan's Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that the country has approved its first-ever license for the industrial and medical use of hemp. The minister called it a “landmark decision” that will allow Pakistan to compete in the billion-dollar global CBD market.
Pakistan's new hemp laws closely mirror the regulations established in the US last year. The country now classifies hemp as cannabis plants containing 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight. Cannabis plants containing more than 0.3 percent THC are still classified as marijuana, and will remain illegal. Government officials have made it clear that the new law does not allow citizens to grow, sell, or smoke weed.
The Ministry of Science and Technology specifically requested that Pakistan legalize industrial hemp cultivation, arguing that it would present a major financial opportunity for the country. Over the course of this year, several government ministries met to debate the proposal, and eventually chose to accept it.
Now that the approval has been granted, the country will begin importing a specific variety of hemp seeds and begin planting. The science ministry has already identified areas in the Potohar region of northern Punjab that would be ideal for growing hemp. Once the plants are mature, the raw flower can be used to develop new medications, and the thick stems can be used to produce clothing, rope, and other products. Hemp seeds can also be used to produce raw CBD oil.
“Worldwide, this fibre is replacing cotton,” said Chaudhry at a press conference, the Hindustan Times reports. “Clothes, bags, and other textile products are being made using this plant’s fibre. This is a $25 billion market and Pakistan can take a big share in this market. This is under government control, so further research can be done and adequate safeguards through ministry of narcotics can be placed.”
The minister explained that it will take about three years to get hemp production underway, giving businesses ample time to begin growing, processing, and researching hemp. The country will also allow industrial and medical hemp imports and exports, and hopes to market its domestic products overseas. Once the market is mature, Chaudhry expects that it will be able to generate $1 billion in revenue each year.
Chaudhry explained that the “CBD compound plays an important role in therapeutic medicine... After 2016, a breakthrough research was unveiled which prompted China to set up a cannabis research department and is now cultivating hemp on 40,000 acres, and Canada is cultivating it on 100,000 acres.”
Although most Southern and Southeast Asian countries remain firmly opposed to marijuana, some countries are finally beginning to relax their restrictions on hemp. Thailand approved low-THC CBD hemp extracts last year, and South Korea now allows imports of two synthetic cannabinoid medications.