The Humble Hemp
Cannabis hemp boasts a long history tracing its roots back to 10,000 B.C. broken Chinese pottery that had hemp rope imprints. Fragments of hemp were also visible on cloth used in burial tombs dating back to the Chou Dynasty around 1122-249 B.C. Apart from being a source of clothing, hemp was also used in warfare as bowstrings for its durability making it an important crop for winning battles. Eventually, hemp was also used in paper production - making Chinese paper one of the most notable inventions in history.
Hemp As A Medicine
Given that cannabis was never restricted in China due to having a wide range of purposes, cannabis as a medicinal plant started being first used around 2, 700 B.C. by Emperor Shen-Nung who was hailed as the father of Chinese medicine, and was a farmer who yearned to find a cure for suffering village residents.
According to old local legends, Shen-Nung himself tried poisons and antidotes to unlock the power of healing herbs. His encyclopedia, Pen Ts'ao, contains a compilation of hundreds of drugs derived from natural sources. Vegetables, animals, minerals and wild plants are listed which also includes "ma" or cannabis.
In Ernest. L. Abel's book, “Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years”, it is indicated that marijuana or "ma" is used to treat illnesses such as gout, rheumatism, beriberi (vitamin B-1 deficiency), malaria, constipation and lack of focus.
Progressing to the second century of Cannabis use for medicinal purposes, a Chinese surgeon by the name of Hua T'o performed invasive surgeries using hemp as anesthesia. Mixing cannabis resin with wine, ma is used to reduce onset of pain during the surgery. Surgeries such as organ drafting, intestinal resectioning, loin and chest incisions were all were done with the aid of cannabis.
The Versatile Hemp Crop
Products that are manufactured in mainland China include food and health products, toiletries, daily, and synthetic biofuels. These products are all made possible through derivation from a hemp plant - one of the most versatile plants cultivated in China.
Hemp seeds are processed to come up with products such as biscuits, brewed wine, beer, chewing gum, and chocolate. Other health products such as supplements and anti-oxidative capsules are manufactured to combat neuro-sensory diseases. The ingestion of phenolic compounds found within the capsules is shown to pungently combat diseases such as epilepsy, anxiety, depression, ulcerative colitis, Parkinson's, Alzheimers and cancer.
And with China's Beijing gaining the reputation for having some of the most polluted air in the world, the cultivation of hemp can potentially bring forth a solution to the alarming smog and its detrimental health to the area with an acre of hemp removing an average of ten tons of carbon dioxide from the air. Meanwhile, hemp root is used to create dry cells and battery materials.
Hemp flowers and leaves are processed and turned into soap and laundry detergents such as mouthwash, shampoo, bath bombs, shower gels, and other hygiene products. With hemp's anti-aging properties, anti-bacterial effects, and its ability to provide anti-oxidative help, it has become a major product found in the beauty industry. Products like creams, lip scrubs and balms, perfumes, sunscreens, lotions, and topicals are made with the use of hemp.
To avoid fungal growth and athlete's foot due to hemp's bactericidal effect, hemp husks are used to make socks. Husks are also used for medical equipment, underwears, towels, baby wipes, diapers, and shoes.Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits are also synthesized to become tinctures and oils to soothe skin irritation.
Additionally, hemp stems are durable and robust in nature and are turned to helmets, tents, construction materials. In fact, BMW and Mercedes, two juggernauts of the automotive industries, swore by hemp for use in car doors and interior materials being naturally flame-retardant, UV resistant, and anti-bacterial.
The Making of Today's Cannabis Capital
The World Intellectual Property Organization informed the press that China now owns about 309 out of the 606 global patents on cannabis. However, CBD or cannabidiol, which is derived from cannabis and hemp and contains many medicinal qualities, still remains illegal in much of China.
The National Bureau of Statistics also pointed out that China produces around half of the "world's legal commercial cropland" for hemp, making it an industry giant. Yunnan province, the only province wherein the Chinese government has granted legal permits for production, is set to become the largest area of CBD cultivation worldwide.
Back in January 1st, 2010, the government of Yunnan province imposed regulations on the production of industrial hemp, but in 2012, the country’s twelfth national five-year plan declared support for the hemp cultivation industry. And in 2015, China's food and drug administration permitted the use of hemp leaf extraction for cosmetics.
Further cementing their status as an industry leader, Kunming, China opened the world's largest cannabinoid extraction plant obtaining legal processing license in less than 8 weeks in 2016. And with the anti-drug bill passed by the People's Congress back in May 1st, 2017, the cultivation, farming, and processing of hemp was permitted through this very day.
On the academic side, Harbin Medical University is the largest Cannabis researcher in China. And together with other educational institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the Heilongjiang Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and the National Research Institute of Food and Fermentation Industries and the government, the hemp industry is increasingly empowered.
Additionally, CannAcubed, a biotech and cannabis company based in Singapore, has partnered with the Chinese government to grow the world's largest CBD plantation in southern China from Yunnan province. They’ve since partnered with China Health Investment Corporation which invested $60 million US dollars for a 15% share in CannAcubed’s China project.
Next year, CannAcubed plans to grow around 2,000 hectares of CBD, about the size of 2,000 football fields. This massive amount of land will have the capability to produce 30 tonnes of the product taking up 6% of the global market CBD share. In total, CannAcubed's partnership with the government of China, and internet giant, Tencent, have been awarded a total of 100,000 hectares to cultivate hemp.
Cannabis: A Rising, Lucrative Industry?
Legal cannabis is becoming a huge market worldwide, predicted to hit an astounding $57 billion US dollars in the next decade. Meanwhile, the legal adult recreational use of cannabis is found to take up 67% of the market while medicinal uses accounts for 33%, according to Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytic.
Canada, now legalizing both recreational and medicinal cannabis use, has solidified itself as the largest producer of medicinal cannabis across the globe. Canada's massive production has even lead to China complaining about how Canadian-produced cannabis has made its way onto China's black market. But before Canada made its name as the largest exporter of the herb - there was China.
While the growth and consumption of cannabis remains illegal in China, the government has been proactively investing in health-related cannabis. One strain, which has not been named, has been shown to help irreversible illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and cancer.
With 34 countries globally allowing the use of medicinal marijuana and the loud uproar of the negative social stigma in China, will the rising hemp industry be unfazed by the odds?