Indigenous Medicine Ministry faces
problems over need for cannabis

The Ministry of Indigenous Medicine will require around twenty acres of land to cultivate cannabis sativa L- (ganja), a main ingredient in a number of Ayurvedic drug preparations. There are around 22 types of drugs which require cannabis in their pharmacopeias.

The Ministry and the Department of Ayurvedha have their hands tied as cannabis is among the types of dangerous drugs and has been declared illegal in Sri Lanka, Secretary Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Asoka Malimage told The Island yesterday. "We have to consider the security side of cultivating cannabis even if it is for medicinal purposes. People are sure to misuse the permission granted to cultivate the psychoactive drug.

It is required to prepare ayurvedic medicines such as Madana Modaka and several other drugs," he said.

The Minister has forwarded a Cabinet Paper requesting permission to cultivate cannabis. The Ministry is also discussing the possibilities of cultivating the hemp plant with the Dangerous Drugs Board under the Dangerous Drugs Act.

India has already granted permission to cultivate cannabis for ayurvedic preparations. The Secretary said he was in touch with his Indian counterpart to acquire details.

"We have to address the matter with care," Malimage said.

The existing requirement for cannabis is around 5,000 kilos.

The Ayurvedha Commissioner, Ramani Gunawardhana, said that at present most of the cannabis the Drug Corporation gets is what is confiscated by Courts when illegal cannabis cultivators are arrested. But by then the leaf is withered and dried and has most often lost the required quality.

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