By Shahrir Jublee – Hemp is a plant that has been used since early civilization up until the early 1900s to make paper, clothing, packaging materials, construction materials and medical purposes for treatment of arthritis, asthma and skin disease before the worldwide ban on cannabis started by the United States government. Hemp and marijuana are siblings from the species of Cannabis Sativa, which is why it normally carries a negative stigma and causes confusion in the public eye. The primary difference is hemp does not have any significant amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound that can cause euphoria or “high sensation” compared to marijuana. The typical amount of THC that can cause that euphoric sensation when consumed normally range from 2.5 mg to 5 mg. Hemp-approved product must only contain 0.3 % THC or less to be legal in the United States and most countries worldwide.
The hemp industry is currently on the rise worldwide. It is expected to grow to USD 26.6 billion by 2025 from USD 4.6 billion in 2020. Its reputation and prospects have also improved as the benefits of the plant become much better known. More governments, companies and people have also recognized that hemp is different from marijuana. The biggest use of hemp is CBD oil that which is used as a dietary supplement and also personal care products such as hemp-based face cream, facial oil, hair tonic, etc.
China is a hemp production powerhouse in the Asia Pacific region and globally, leading in the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and exports. The next two major hemp players are India and South Korea. Thailand which has a long history of using cannabis for medicinal purpose has also recently amended the Thailand Narcotics Act to allow the use of cannabis (hemp) for medical and research purposes as not all parts of the plant are considered narcotics. The Thai’s government move in promoting hemp as a cash crop for the country’s farmers where the price of hemp can reach up to USD 1,500.00 per kilogram have made Thailand a key player in the region.
The legalisation for hemp cultivation is still a work in progress in Malaysia as hemp (cannabis) falls under the Dangerous Drug Act 1952. However, there is a provision under the law that allows cannabis plants to be cultivated for medicinal purposes. It will be a wasted opportunity if Malaysia does not follow the other nation’s footstep in legislating hemp for commercial use. The government’s endorsement of hemp agriculture would increase the revenue of the Malaysian economy as hemp products are highly marketable in the international market.
The Malaysian state of Sabah, with its fertile land, a pragmatic and open-minded government, would be the ideal place for the establishment of the first hemp cultivation research and development in the country.