After the founding of the People’s Republic, the Communist Party-led Beijing government classified cannabis as an illicit drug, introducing some of the world’s toughest laws and regulations against its production, trade, and consumption. In extreme cases, traffickers could face the death penalty. This resulted in a persistently sluggish cannabis market in China. Fortunately, the industry appears to take a new look in recent years as Beijing eases its grip on hemp cultivation.
Although cannabis has not yet been authorized for consumption in China, local farmers and companies have cultivated hemp for textiles, seeds, oil, and even traditional medicine for thousands of years. Beijing usually turns a blind eye on farmers growing their own low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) varieties of hemp.
As of today, Yunnan in the Southwest, Heilongjiang in the Northeast, and possibly Jilin in the Northeast are the sole three regions of China to be granted certain licenses to grow cannabis plants.
This is a potentially lucrative market for more than 1.4 billion people in China, which accounts for roughly 18% of the world’s population. It is expected that the country’s market size will hit $1.5 billion in 2020, the Hangzhou-based industrial information provider, 51Jinke.com predicted.
China boasts a history of 5,000 years of textile production, and hemp that can be used for textiles, including the clothes of the general public and even the uniforms of the People’s Liberation of Army.
In the late 1970s when China went to war with Vietnam over alleged territorial disputes, the Chinese army used hemp to develop fiber to keep soldiers clean and dry in Vietnam’s humidity, as well as a painkiller in field hospitals.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hemp is known as one of 50 fundamental herbs. Its functions include pain relief, stopping spasms, calming nerves, relieving insomnia, and soothing ovarian and menstrual pains. (The science, as far as for now, is not conclusive.)
As of today, China has not yet approved hemp for medical and food usage, but the first batch of Chinese companies permitted to develop hemp for consumer goods are developing in cosmetics, according to the Global Times, an affiliation of the Communist Party’s mouthpiece: the People’s Daily.
In China’s several biggest e-commerce platforms, including Taobao and JD.com, consumers nowadays are accessible to cosmetics made from cannabidiol, or CBD, most of which are priced ranging from 100 yuan to 1,000 yuan.
China is the world’s second-largest cosmetics market follow by the United States, with the size reaching 410.2 billion yuan in 2018, according to the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute. In a move to expand the size, an increasing number of Chinese men are spending more money than ever on makeup as a result of the influence of K-pop culture which emphasizes masculine beauty.
Beijing has imposed strict laws and regulations for hemp cultivation, processing and usage, but investors are currently rushing to exploit the market from a small hole. The industry now slowly takes on a new look as more and more CBD-made products come into the market, and authorities and the public relent on its usage in people’s daily life.