The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and the Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs have warned against the government move to legalise cannabis. It has, in a letter addressed to the Secretary to the President, Saman Ekanayake, asked the government “to be extremely cautious when considering any form of legalising of cannabis – even the relaxation of laws on cultivation, for doubtful ‘economic’ benefits.”
The population of Sri Lanka is suffering on multiple fronts, and the “cure” of cannabis cultivation dangled in front of the government can end up being far worse than the illness. Sri Lanka does not deserve more misery,” says the letter signed by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, President, SLMA and Prof. Narada Warnasuriya, Chairperson, Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs.
The letter, under the title ‘Committee to explore feasibility of cultivating cannabis for export,’ addressed to the President’s Secretary, Saman Ekanayake, says: We are concerned of the continuous efforts to legalize cannabis cultivation under various pretexts in Sri Lanka. We learned from the media that the government has appointed a committee to explore the feasibility of legalizing cultivation for the export of cannabis products. The arguments used for economic benefits are mostly false. However, only those who have studied them carefully can counter the various beguiling claims made by advocates – with vested interests. Those who want to promote cannabis smoking, for profit, cover up the real intention by presenting it as a foreign exchange earner through hemp export. Hemp is a dead market with prices plum
meting over the years and companies making billion-dollar losses. The lucrative market is selling cannabis cigarettes.The current economic crisis seems to be the latest lever used by interested parties to proceed on their objectives. Though we are convinced that this committee was appointed in good faith by the government, we wish to place the following queries before this committee.
1. What is the need for new policies or laws, as growing cannabis for medicinal purposes is already allowed?
2. Has an independent and credible international market survey been carried out estimating the market share we can get, the prices, the profits and the actual amount of foreign currency that the country and the government will earn? This is because there is a surplus of hemp production around the world, leading to crashes in market prices, putting farmers in debt and causing billion-dollar losses to cannabis companies.
3. Are there studies to ascertain if they have the economies of scale to compete with the current “legal” growers such as China, Netherlands?
4. Is the current international illegal cannabis market taken into account which produces millions of tons of cannabis annually, and can easily compete with “legal” exports from small countries such as Sri Lanka?
5. Will any multinational cannabis companies be allowed to grow cannabis in Sri Lanka, alone or in collaboration with a local partner or the government?
6. If so, will these entities be allowed to repatriate their profits in foreign currency from Sri Lanka?
7. What are the steps that will be taken to ensure that they do not falsify data to ensure that their sales proceeds are kept abroad without coming back to Sri Lanka through practices such as transfer pricing?
8. Will government land be allocated to cannabis cultivation in the context of real and potential food shortages in Sri Lanka?
9. Will armed forces or police protection be provided to these plantations?
10. Have other less harmful more acceptable cash crops (E.g. castor bean – beheth endaru, citronella etc) been considered for export with a potential saving of foreign currency?
11. What are the examples of countries that have successfully addressed balance of payment crises through cannabis cultivation?
12. Will the committee take into account the large investments made by the tobacco industry in cannabis companies although the cannabis companies are making billion-dollar losses?
We also wish to bring to your attention the danger of promoting use of cannabis by giving it the level of publicity it receives now. As you may be aware, there is a concerted effort to promote cannabis through social media. The current publicity relating to decriminalization and legalization (even only for export) will ensure a synergistic effect, resulting in normalizing cannabis use. Evidence shows that such publicity related to one substance can lead to increase in use of other substances as well.
We are concerned because cannabis is already the most widely used psychoactive substance in Sri Lanka and the world. It is also the most used illegal drug by young people around the world. Despite claims of medical benefits, there are many health harms of cannabis including mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, cannabis use disorders and serious lung ailments. It also affects brain development of adolescents and is associated with self-harm and suicide as well as road traffic accidents which already are major killers in Sri Lanka.
Therefore, we wish to earnestly request you to be extremely cautious when considering any form of legalizing of cannabis – even the relaxation of laws on cultivation, for doubtful “economic” benefits. Prices of cannabis products have fallen steeply during the last 6-7 years in world markets due to oversupply and all predictions of it being the goose that lays golden eggs, that were made 4 to 5 years ago, have been shown to be spurious. The population of Sri Lanka is suffering on multiple fronts, and the “cure” of cannabis cultivation dangled in the front of the government can end up being far worse than the illness. Sri Lanka does not deserve more misery.
Report on child protection delivered to President
The Committee appointed to Study and Make Recommendations for the Protection of Children handed over their comprehensive report to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (03) evening.
This committee was established on April 19, 2023, to study and provide recommendations for the protection, care and overall welfare of children who have been subjected to various forms of violence within Sri Lanka.
Over the course of nearly five months, the committee conducted 21 meetings to gain an in-depth understanding of the existing issues and to formulate practical recommendations. The committee comprised a diverse group of members, including representatives from institutions such as Children Homes, Remand Homes, Certified Homes, Child Development Centres, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Chambers of Commerce, Trade Unions & Associations, Principals of Schools, Civil Society Organizations, Telecommunication and Digital Service Providers, Telecommunication Regulators, Digital Crime Security Experts, Lions Club, Rotaract Club, representatives from the U.S. Embassy, Colleges of Medicine, Solicitors General from the Attorney General’s Department, National Child Protection Authority, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Family Health Bureau, Foreign Employment Bureau, Sri Lanka Women’s’ Bureau and officials from the Ministries in charge of Women & Children and Education.
The report, which was completed and submitted to the President yesterday, addresses a wide range of issues concerning child protection, including issues related to institutionalized environments, lack of parental care, family separation, digital media exposure, child labour and more. The committee also evaluated the adequacy of existing institutional, administrative and legal safeguards for child protection, aiming to meet the demands of modern society.
Furthermore, the report explores strategies to enhance the physical and mental health of children who have experienced various forms of violence, abuse and neglect. It also delves into the concerning trend of children engaging in violent acts and seeks innovative approaches for community participation in child care initiatives
Landslide Early Warnings Issued to Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts extended
The landslide early warnings issued by the landslide early warning center of the National Building Research Organisation to the districts of Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts have been extended untill 1630 hrs today.
Level II landslid early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Neluwa in the Galle district, Ingiriya in the Kalutara district, Pasbage Korale in the Kandy district, Kotapola and Pitabeddara in the Matara district, Ayagama, Kuruwita, Pelmadulla, Nivithigala, Kiriella, Ratnapura, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.
Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district, Elpitiya in the Galle district, Walasmulla in the Hambanthota district, Mathugama, Buathsinhala, Aggalawaththa and Walallawita in the Kalutara district, Yatiyanthota, Kegalle and Dehiowita in the Kegalle district, Athureliya and Mulatiyana in the Matara district and Imbulpe and Kolonna in the Ratnapura district
Opposition: Judge’s resignation has tarnished Lanka’s image
He should have taken action against those who threatened him – govt.
By Saman Indrajith
Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that there were serious questions and concerns about the independence of the judiciary following the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanarajah, citing threats and harassment.
“This is a serious issue and the government should conduct an independent inquiry into this matter immediately,” Premadasa said.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said the judge’s resignation, citing threats and harassment following his ruling on the Kurundimalai temple, had led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary. He said that the Mullaitivu Magistrate had been pressured to change his judgment.
Justice Minister,Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said Sri Lankan judges had power to issue summons and take appropriate action against individuals who attempted to exert influence over them. He asked why the judge concerned had not used his powers.
Minister Rajapakshe said that the Opposition could file a contempt of court case if anyone had pressured the Mullaitivu Magistrate to reverse his judgment as claimed, without levelling allegations against the government.
The Minister said the government had no powers to investigate the matter involving the Magistrate and that the JSC was the relevant body to handle the matter and requested if anyone had any issue, they could complain to the Judicial Service Commission.
TNA MP Sumanthiran said that the whole world knew that there was pressure on the Judge. “The Minister cannot claim that there was no pressure on the judge.”
Minister Rajapakshe said that if there was anyone in the House who had exerted pressure on the judiciary it was MP Sumanthiran. He said MP Sumanthiran had on 20 October, 2022 told Parliament that the judges of the Supreme Court should be sent home. “You said in this House that people had no faith in the Supreme Court.”
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