Pakistan, whose economy is struggling, is betting on a cannabis high

The goal of a new regulator is to crush the illegal market while legalizing hemp cultivation. Is Pakistan, however, joining the global cannabis party too late?


Pakistan’s Islamabad In order to help his mother manage her suffering, the medical professionals in India recommended that Aamir Dhedhi purchase cannabidiol (CBD) oil when he brought his mother there in 2014 for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Dhedhi, an entrepreneur located in Karachi, discovered the medical benefits of the cannabis derivative for the first time.

The businessman placed an order for a little amount of oil from the US after returning to Pakistan. He claimed that it eased his mother’s anxiety and lessened her tremors almost immediately. Dhedhi started to firmly believe in the advantages of CBD.

The 49-year-old businessman told Al Jazeera, “This has grown into a passion project for me seeing the impact the oil has on my mother’s wellbeing.”

Even though his mother passed away in 2020, Dhedhi claimed he has since witnessed other people benefit from CBD oil. He stated, “At this point, I want to support our local growers in increasing their output and promoting its use.”

Dhedhi is not the only one hoping to establish a domestic medical marijuana market.

The Cannabis Control and Regulatory Authority (CCRA), an organization entrusted with “regulating the cultivation, extraction, refining, manufacturing, and sale of cannabis derivatives for medical and industrial purposes,” was established by an ordinance that was adopted by Pakistan in February.

A 13-member board made up of officials from several government ministries, intelligence services, and the commercial sector will be in charge of the regulating body.

The creation of the regulatory agency, which was initially suggested in 2020 during the administration of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, is indicative of Pakistan’s attempts to capitalize on the rapidly expanding and profitable worldwide market for cannabis derivatives.


Research and Markets, an organization located in Ireland, projects that the global market for cannabidiol, which was valued at approximately $7 billion in 2022, will surpass $30 billion by 2027.

CBD is thought to have medicinal benefits but is not psychoactive like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants that gives users a high. Doctors are prescribing it more frequently to treat anxiety, acute and chronic pain, and other illnesses.

The establishment of the regulator was mandated by United Nations rules, according to Syed Hussain Abidi, head of the government-owned Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) and member of the CCRA’s board of governors.

He told Al Jazeera that “the UN laws say that a country must have a federal entity that will deal with supply chain and ensure international compliance if it wants to produce, process, and conduct sales of cannabis-related products.”

To prevent the misuse of therapeutic products and their recreational use, the CCRA’s regulatory framework sets a maximum THC content of 0.3 percent for cannabis derivatives.

Any infraction of the ordinance may result in severe penalties, with fines ranging from

According to Abidi, the nation might take use of the herb’s production to boost its unstable foreign reserves by making money through exports, foreign investment, and domestic sales.

Until now, Pakistani law has barred the cultivation of cannabis, but the country’s northwestern region, particularly the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is home to thousands of hectares of land where the crop has been cultivated for hundreds of years. For the most part, governments have chosen to look away rather than crack down.

But the February ordinance aims to change that. On the one hand, it talks about “regulating” the area where cannabis is cultivated in the country, and issuing licences to farmers for growing the plant.

On the other hand, the new regulatory regime could give the government a clearer mandate to penalise those who produce cannabis without a licence. The National Cannabis Policy, which the PCSIR prepared last year and which served as

Although the ordinance has been enacted, technically the cultivation is now legal. However, Abidi stated that regulations and processes are still being developed, and the authority has not yet been registered.

It is anticipated that licenses would be granted for terms of five years. Legal cannabis growing zones will be designated by the federal government.

The vision

Estimates, according to Abidi, place the total area under cannabis cultivation at close to 28,000 hectares (70,000 acres), primarily in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a little amount in the southwest province of Balochistan.

He declared, “We have a long-standing tradition of growing cannabis.” “We must take advantage of this chance.”

The businessman Dhedhi, who is located in Karachi, concurs. He is collaborating with farmers in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to help them modernize their farming practices and raise the output’s quality and efficiency.

In Pakistan, cannabis is typically grown outdoors in the sun with little to no use of fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals. Pakistani cannabis differs from cannabis that is mass-produced in many other countries due to its organic nature, but this also implies that the production’s quantity and quality are less consistent.

“In this industry, we have enormous potential to use CBD to deliver health benefits. People have the chance to receive less expensive medical options, which will benefit both our domestic consumers and [increase the] possibility for export, according to Dhedhi.



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