building in china questioning the legality of hemp

Is Hemp Legal In China?

Hemp laws in the United States are complicated, and therefore we have to spend a lot of time unpacking them. But the USA isn’t the only country where the popularity of hemp and hemp-derived products are growing.

Let’s zoom out and take a look at what hemp laws look like in the far east. 

China’s Hemp History

China has an incredibly long history with the cannabis plant. In fact, some of the earliest recorded instances of cannabis being smoked take place in China and date back longer than 2500 years ago. Long before even that, the region had cultivated hemp for industrial purposes such as paper making. Scientists even believe that cannabis’ origins are in central Asia, around the area that is now Mongolia and China. It wasn’t until around 1400BC that the plant would make its way into Europe by way of a nomadic group of early Iranians known as the Scythians. 

Is Weed Legal in China?

The People’s Republic of China has pretty strict laws when it comes to drug use. Despite the country's long history with the  hemp plant, cannabis use is strictly regulated and can get you in serious trouble. Similar to the United States, cannabis is in the same class of drugs as heroin and cocaine. Trafficking cannabis can even land someone with a death sentence.

While having larger quantities of marijuana can result in a public execution, drug users caught with smaller amounts of marijuana face penalties significantly less severe. Actual penalties vary based on who you ask, but according to the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments, those caught smoking marijuana should face a maximum of fifteen days in jail and a 2,000 yuan fine. 

Chinese law makes no exception for medical Marijuana either and has not implemented any sort of medical marijuana program even though the plant has been used medicinally in the country for thousands of years. 

The Chinese government may maintain an explicitly negative attitude towards marijuana, but there’s no denying the country certainly grows a lot of cannabis. Cannabis plants can be found growing in the wild all over the country. Dali City in southern China is known in particular for being home to an abundance of feral cannabis plants. 

Is Hemp Legal in China?

The plant doesn’t just grow in the wild either; it’s commercially cultivated. China is a huge player in the international hemp market and produces an estimated 50% of the world’s supply of industrial hemp.

These hemp production figures are even more impressive when you take into account the fact that the country has only recently begun exporting the plant again. In 1985 hemp cultivation was made illegal. Thanks in part to a push from rural communities, in 2010, the Chinese government made allowances for the commercial cultivation of hemp in two of its provinces––Heilongjiang in the northeast and the Yunnan province in the southwest. Not just anyone can grow hemp in China either; only those with express permission from the government can participate in industrial hemp farming.

In just over a decade, China has become a global leader in hemp output. There are currently 606 cannabis product patents. Chinese companies hold over 300 of them.

Is CBD Legal in China? 

China may be responsible for producing half of the world’s hemp, but the legality of the CBD derived from those plants is tricky. 

Like in the United States, CBD has a somewhat nebulous legal status in the People’s Republic of China. Unlike in the USA, though, you won’t find any CBD tinctures or edibles stocking the shelves of a Beijing drug store.

However, the Chinese cosmetic industry has fully embraced CBD, and CBD-infused moisturizers, skin serums, and face creams are plentiful in the country's beauty stores. Only government-approved CBD-infused beauty products are able to be purchased within the nation’s borders. Only a select handful of companies are allowed to manufacture these products.

Currently, Chinese CBD companies are doing research and development in hopes that they will be able to bring CBD vapes, capsules, and oils into Chinese retail establishments. In the meantime, however, there is an import ban on all CBD products, so don’t expect to find any CBD in China.