Religious Leaders in Sri Lanka Blast Government Plan to Promote Cannabis Production

Some religious leaders in Sri Lanka have criticized the government’s planned promotion of cannabis cultivation in the country to generate tax revenues.

‘Potential Threat to Health, Culture’

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, a known Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, scholar, and researcher, explained that the government’s plan to legalize cannabis production could threaten citizens’ health and culture.

The monk added that Sri Lankans are being led to believe that cannabis is beneficial, which he countered is untrue. He also explained that the government must focus more on the evils of alcoholism and substance use instead of proposing laws that generate income taxes.

“An attempt to legalize cannabis under the guise of economic crisis will create a serious cultural and health situation if these plans are launched,” UCA News quoted Venerable Sobitha Thera saying.

Aside from the Buddhist monk, a high-ranking prelate from the Archdiocese of Colombo lamented the government’s alleged failure to safeguard the lives and future of children.

The priest, who refused to be named, explained that the government’s desperation to generate tax revenues from cannabis cultivation is a factor in its inability to protect the youth from using illicit substances, including cannabis.

“The government should make efforts to enforce laws and eradicate drugs including cannabis from the country, not promote them. Some politicians misuse the Bible and say Jesus and his disciples used the drugs to carry out miraculous healings,” the priest told UCA News. 

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‘A Shot in the Arm’

The news outlet said the legislative proposal is eyed to generate funds from cannabis export amid the country’s current economic problems.

In his 2023 parliament speech during the deliberation of the country’s 202 budget, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickramasinghe argued that they would create an expert committee to handle cannabis cultivation for export purposes.

The proposed legislation came despite the current ban on large-scale cannabis production. Only small-scale production of the plant is allowed, given its use in Ayurvedic medicine, the report said.

Diana Gamage, the country’s Tourism State Minister, argued that Sri Lanka could generate roughly $2 billion by funding cannabis production. She added that income from the production and export of cannabis plants could give a much-needed shot in the arm to the country’s ongoing economic problem.

“I see a way for Sri Lanka to recover through cannabis cultivation,” Gamage explained.

Sri Lanka’s Illegal Drugs Woes

UCA News bared that Sri Lanka’s current state as a major trafficking point for illegal drugs has posed problems, particularly drug addiction, throughout the country. The news outlet said that Sri Lanka suffers from the evils of heroin and cannabis, which are the top narcotic issues in the country.

UCA News disclosed that there are currently 600,000 cannabis and nearly 45,000 heroin users throughout Sri Lanka. The data reportedly came from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Additionally, official information bared that around 1-2% of heroin users are classified as Injection Drug Users (IDUs). Thankfully, the country has a low prevalence rate of HIV, which can be transmitted through infected needles.

Accordingly, the country’s anti-corruption unit promised to sustain its anti-illegal drug raids pending the enactment of the bill on cannabis production.

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