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Green gold: how China quietly grew into a cannabis superpower

Every year in April, Jiang Xingquan sets aside part of his farm in northern China to grow cannabis. The size of the plot varies with market demand but over the last few years it has been about 600 hectares.

Like every other hemp farmer in Hexin in Heilongjiang province near the Russian border, Jiang is growing the plant legally.

The growers sell the stems of the crop to textile factories to make high-quality fabric, the leaves to pharmaceutical companies for drugs, and the seeds to food companies to make snacks, kitchen oil and drinks.

For the farmers, the crop is green gold – hemp brings in more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) per hectare, compared to just a few thousand yuan for more common crops like corn. It also has few natural enemies so there’s little need for expensive pesticides.

“That’s pure profit,” Jiang said.

Jiang’s farm is in China’s frosty...

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