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Sri Lanka will launch its first cannabis plantation to export the drug to the US for medicinal use, the country's health minister announced.

The 100-acre (400-hectare) farm could produce more than 25 tonnes of marijuana a year in a bid to meet the “high demand” for alternative medicine.

While it is illegal to grow, use or possess cannabis in the US, individual states can choose to decriminalise the plant as long as its use is regulated.

"Good cannabis is a vital ingredient in the preparation of traditional medicine."

The traditional herbal medicine market currently depends on handouts from courts which seize illegally grown or smuggled drugs.

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"By the time our native doctors get this cannabis, it is about four to five years old and it has lost its effectiveness," Senaratne said.

He said the government expected to export the surplus from its proposed farm at Ingiriya, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Colombo.

Marijuana for recreational and medical use is legal in the US states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Smoking and possessing the drug is illegal in Sri Lanka.

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