China’s Marijuana Surprise

CHINA:  An economic stir is happening in China, but it’s in an industry you might not expect. With more than half of the 600 relevant patents filed with the World Intellectual Property Office now owned by Chinese companies, the country is well positioned to dominate the global cannabis market. Which is very surprising for a nation where drug trafficking is still punishable by death and mere possession of the substance can result in a lengthy spell behind bars.

Chinese investment in the cannabis market could not be more perfectly timed, as countries like the U.S. and Uruguay begin to experiment with decriminalization. Medical marijuana research has surged over the last decade as medicine and finance have coalesced to legitimize the business of cannabis. The fervor for the war on drugs that has for decades driven the policies and public opinion on marijuana decriminalization is slowly fading. In the U.S., where cannabis is nowlegal in four states, the rhetoric is moving away from issues like crime and security, to more progressive discussions on race, mass incarceration, and personal freedom.

Meanwhile, there is another emerging dimension: Western medicine is beginning to take more seriously the tradition and techniques of alternative medicine popularized by China. Part of this tradition is cannabis, which has been used to treat illnesses ranging from depression to constipation.

China is uniquely poised to take advantage of cannabis production because of its strong patent control and the fact that its production of pharmaceuticals is surpassing the West. As Dr. Luc Dechesne states: “Because cannabis in Western medicine is becoming accepted, the predominance of Chinese patents suggests that pharmaceutical sciences are evolving quickly in China, outpacing Western capabilities.” China is already one of the leading exporters of hemp and is well positioned to benefit from any future boom in cannabis.


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