Nowadays, all eyes in the cannabis industry are trained on Canada, which is poised to become a major game-changer once recreational cannabis becomes legal on October 17. But as exciting as that is, we shouldn't overlook the silent giant in the cannabis industry: China, which by some estimates produces 50 per cent of the world's cannabis. That includes all forms of cannabis, including hemp.
Hemp has a long history in China, going back some 12,000 years. Today, while smokeable cannabis remains illegal, hemp continues to play a large role in Chinese culture - and commerce.
There are 606 cannabis related patents held worldwide - 309 of these belong to Chinese companies. That means China has vastly outpaced the cannabis innovations of any other country and stands to gain a lot from the developing cannabis industry in the West, according to the Ottawa-based biochemist Dr. Luc Duchesne.
"Because cannabis in Western medicine is becoming accepted, the predominance of Chinese patents suggests that pharmaceutical sciences are evolving quickly in China, outpacing Western capabilities," Duchesne told Forbes.
This mass of expertise puts them in a good position to take hold of a massive slice of the world's cannabis economy. Currently, they are already dominant in the production of hemp for textiles and fiber, says Bryan DeHaven - owner of the Colorado clothing brand Chiefton Supply Co.
"You can’t make hemp clothing in the U.S. because the country no longer has sufficient expertise in textile production."
Despite those advances, China has remained relatively quiet about cornering the cannabis market. And many entrepreneurs might not realize it until they wake up one day and realize that the silent giant has pushed them out of the market.