Cannabis in India – Opinion

India has a rich history of cannabis cultivation, as evidenced by its use as a source of fibre and medicine for thousands of years. The Atharva Veda mentions cannabis as one of the five sacred plants. Even Sanjeevani Booti itself may, in fact, be cannabis. It is our national treasure with over 200 native landraces flourishing in the wild. During the colonial times, the plant was studied thoroughly and published under the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report of 1893.

 Cannabis Sativa L. (“Cannabis” or “Hemp”) originates from the Himalayan regions. Cannabis consists of two subspecies commonly known as cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Within central legislation, both cannabis and hemp are defined as the same, hence the terms can be used interchangeably.

Robin Dey, Director of Finance of Hempcorp has always had a thirst for entrepreneurial activities, consequently starting several business ventures. More recently working in blockchain technology, financial services and real estate related industries.

Presently, there are many restrictions imposed on the cultivation, processing, and use of cannabis. We are at a juncture where the Indian cannabis industry needs to be assessed and developed independently, rather than in conjunction with our western counterparts.

It is generally accepted that cannabis has over 25,000 uses, including medicines, industrial textiles, consumer textiles, paper, building materials, food, industrial products, biofuels, bioplastics, and many more. Environmentally, compared to other crops, it is more resistant to insects and diseases. It regenerates soil, assists in absorbing carbon dioxide, and is ideal for crop rotation.

Various uses:

#1 Studies have shown it to reduce calorie consumption in people with diabetes, effectively treating high blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It is rich in arginine, an amino acid that increases the production of nitric oxide, which has been further studied to better the performance by 19-22% in weight lifting.

#2 The Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment confirmed that the consumption of cannabis seed powder assists in the treatment of breast cancer, making cannabis seeds an excellent source of protein for cancer patients.

#3 Cannabis extract has been extensively researched to help with severe medical conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, pain management, multiple sclerosis, skin diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, brain, and heart conditions.

Oncology Nutritionist and founder of Holi Herb Anushka Kapadia is witnessing a rising school of thought which believes, as per available evidence, that cannabis seed protein powder is better than the protein powders generally available in the market.

Studies show that commercial whey protein, when taken for more extended periods, can destabilise the gut bacteria causing gastrointestinal disorders and leaky gut, thereby leading to autoimmune diseases. Excessive consumption can lead to kidney failure, cardiac arrest, disturbing heartbeat rhythm, and in some cases, a complete loss of heart functionalities.

Individuals with thyroid problems and autoimmune conditions are highly intolerant to soy. Also, groundnuts are often contaminated with mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins and cyclopiazonic acid (CPA). In comparison, cannabis seed protein powder, which is cold-pressed, unrefined, and a safer alternative to commercial whey protein powders, are hypoallergenic, unlike other protein powders, which are derived from an allergic source such as dairy, soy, and peanuts.

Cannabis Regulation in India

There are already thousands of acres of cannabis being cultivated across India. However, the produce is mostly cultivated illegally and sold through black market channels, which, in turn, puts pressure on the already overcrowded judicial system of India.

Cannabis is presently legal for industrial, medical, and scientific purposes. State governments should become more progressive by implementing standardised cannabis licensing policy in a timely fashion via the powers given to the state under the Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act. As a consequence of being proactive, states such as Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and West Bengal are making progress.

Regulating cannabis will liberate us in many different aspects. India registered 11,60,000 cancer cases in 2018, according to GLOBOCAN, the WHO’s cancer-mapping program. The regulation of cannabis will help those people who cannot afford modern cancer treatments.

Further, it will create new jobs, new opportunities for business, tax revenues for the government, and help the farmers. It will help to contain the flow of cannabis through illegal black market channels.

According to Kshetrimayum Brojendro Singh (the co-founder of Hempistani who is taking efforts on generating cannabis awareness for the general public through digital platforms while providing consumers a central access point for the best cannabis-based products), if farmers in the drought-prone regions are allowed to cultivate cannabis, which requires a lesser amount of water, fertiliser, and care to grow, then our growing protein consumption could assist in gaining higher revenues for their production in the Indian markets as well as in foreign markets, which will eventually help the rural economy to boom.

There is a need for policymakers to act swiftly and assist in creating a self-sufficient and beneficial cannabis economy for the Indian industrial ecosystem. It has been projected that the cannabis industry would add $40 billion to the US economy by 2021 and would provide 4,14,000 jobs. Trade in Canada is expected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2020, while in Europe, it is expected to be worth £106 billion by 2028.

India can also successfully build a billion-dollar cannabis industry with the help of a regulated cannabis market and by giving desired support to farmers who cultivate cannabis. It should be accessible to all.

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