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Cannabis Through The Years: The Sri Lankan Edition

2018 Apr 20

If you’ve been on social media throughout the day, you would have seen posts wishing you a “Happy 420”, a time or date used to signify and celebrate the use of marijuana. The popular euphemism for smoking weed has been around for as long as any of us can remember but does anyone really know the origins of the much raved about catchphrase? No, it’s not Bob Marley’s birth or death day.

The original term was really “420 Louise”coming from a group of 5 high school students in San Rafael who called themselves “The Waldos” and would meet next to the statue of 19th-century French scientist Louis Pasteur at 4.20pm every day to smoke some good-good. What started out as a joke soon spread throughout the entire school, then the entire state and before the decade was up, people from all over the world were using “420” to refer to smoking cannabis – who would have thought!

The journey of weed in Sri Lanka has been a long and difficult one. For instance:

Ayurvedic Origins
Since ancient times, small doses of Marijuana have been used in ayurvedic medicine for quick relief from indigestion, joint pains or even impotency, but with recreational use increasing and the law becoming tighter on the drug, ayurvedic manufacturers have been having a hard time trying to find good quality herbs.
“When cannabis is found on anyone, the police seize it and hand it over to the courts. The percentage approved by the Ayurvedic Corporation is allocated from the seized amount of ganja. This is handed over to the officials there. The balance is destroyed,” says Mr. Amarajith De Silva, OIC, Narcotics Bureau.

“By the time our native doctors get this cannabis, it is about four to five years old and it has lost its effectiveness,” says RajithaSenaratne, Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine.

Weed Infused Candy?

Image courtesy of Daily News

A few years ago, protective Sri Lankan parents had the scare of their lives when local petti kades were reportedly selling “Madana Modaka”, an ayurvedic cannabis-infused drug, to unwitting school children at Rs.5 a packet. Parents were afraid that their children, mistaking the drug for a toffee, would unknowingly consume it and eventually get addicted to the substance.

Sri Lanka’s first (legal) Cannabis plantation
As of March 2018, the Sri Lankan government announced the launch of a cannabis plantation in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Districts, with Bhuddist Monks agreeing to the cause. The 100 acre farm is estimated to produce more than 25 tonnes of marijuana a year to be exported to the US for medicinal use, and to supply a percentage of produce to licensed local Ayurveda practitioners as “Good cannabis is a vital ingredient in the preparation of traditional medicine”, according to Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Sumedha G. Jayasena, stated in 2008: “Even Buddhist monks of the area demand that ganja be legalized. These Bhikkhus come to us and request that laws be amended in Parliament to remove legal barriers to allow free cultivation of ganja.” The legalization of cannabis may be a possibility in the far future but for now, Sri Lanka stands on firm grounds, with possession of cannabis being deemed a criminal offence.

This 420, tell us what you think! Should Sri Lanka legalize recreational marijuana?