Myanmar fast-tracks legal hemp – but not for smoking

Photo: Nicky Pe
Photo: Nicky Pe

Legal hemp is coming to Myanmar, but don’t bust out the celebratory spliffs just yet – decriminalizing cannabis remains a pipe dream.

A plan to legalize hemp production is in the works in the Pyithu Hluttaw, or House of Representatives, where its rural development committee is coordinating with the agriculture ministry to trial its use for a variety of commercial products.

The committee is drafting the legislation necessary to legalize hemp. Committee chairman Yan Lin told the Myanmar Farmers’ Journal that research fields would be ready once the law is enacted.

“If the government’s agricultural departments will grow it, and its followed by the farmers and companies, we can adopt it for research, but not yet for sale. Then we can try to find out which area is right for it. Besides, it will be ready to proceed once the law is granted. Otherwise, we have to wait until then,” Lin said of plans for the current parliamentary session.

The law does not differentiate between hemp and cannabis, and both remain illegal. Earlier this year, a Myanmar construction worker at a licensed, U.S.-owned hemp farm was sentenced to 20 years in prison after local police deemed it was producing cannabis.

While legal hemp is often a stalking horse for decriminalizing cannabis, no one has raised that as a goal. Thailand remains the only nation in Southeast Asia to have partially decriminalized marijuana.

Industrial hemp is a renewable resource that can be used for a variety of uses, particularly in textiles, as well as paper, food, cosmetics and more.

According to the Myanmar Hemp Association, hemp can be grown three times a year in the uplands and inland regions, and in the delta regions during the rainy season. A variety of hemp species are mostly found in Kachin, Shan and Chin states.


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