The roots of the Cannabis plant in India have been consciously cultivated for over 2000 years. It was once an integral part of Indian culture, and now the whispers of social taboo surround all those who venture into its use. Yet, it remains a staple in festivities in North India, holding much spiritual significance. As research supports the benefits of cannabis and its by-products for medicinal purposes, the laws are starting to catch up, but what are these laws? Is cannabis legal in India? And what does the future hold for the wonder plant in this country?
In this article, we explore these questions so that you are aware of the different options you have when deciding what is best for your body.
A Bit About Cannabis
The Cannabis or hemp flower has many names and is known to heighten the senses because of a unique compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The rest of the plant, including the stems, leaves, and seeds are used to extract another compound called CBD. This compound is not psychoactive and does not give you that ‘high’ sensation like THC. While both compounds offer health benefits by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), they do so in different ways.
THC affects the way your nerve cells (in the brain) communicate with each other, which affects the psyche. THC-rich cannabis is often used recreationally and can lead to addiction when abused. CBD, on the other hand, interacts with the ECS differently. CBD works on this system in such a way that it helps it carry out the functions it usually does, but better. This includes regulating sleep,mood,pain,joint problems, heart problems,chemotherapy,multiple sclerosis, and lifestyle disorders. You can read up on the other benefits in our previous blog on hemp oil!
History of Cannabis In India
Cannabis dates back to the 10th century when it was referred to as ‘the food of the Gods’ – largely influenced by Lord Shiva. Shiva is said to have eaten the leaves of the plant one day and become instantly rejuvenated. Since then, devotees of the deity have used a resin version of the plant called hashish, which has an interesting history of its own. Hashish or charas is formed by rubbing the cannabis plant’s flowers for a few hours. It is said to have been used by Guru Gobind Singh’s soldiers to relieve their battle fears. In fact, the term ‘hashish’ stems from the word ‘hashishin’, meaning ‘assassin’- which may link its use to the 11th-century military in Persia.
The cannabis plant has been noted in Vedic literature, Sanskrit plays, and the Rajvallabh. Its healing properties were known to be physical and mental, and soon it became a common herb in Indian society. The use of bhang, a drink made from cannabis stems, leaves, and seeds, is still popular in modern India. During the festival of Holi, you will find this tradition continued all over India today.
How Cannabis Became Illegal In India
For decades Indians indulged in cannabis use until the British took control. In the 1890s, they appointed the Indian Hemp Commission to study the production, trade, and impacts of the consumption of cannabis. They reviewed 1193 people in 30 Indian cities and found that the effects were “harmless in moderation”. Because of its religious significance, the British decided to tax the herb instead of banning it.
In the 1960s and 70s, the drug revolution took over the West. Initially, India opposed the discrimination of natural therapeutic herbs. Eventually, the government had to follow the global stance on narcotics, which grouped cannabis with dangerous substances. In 1985, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), labeled cannabis as an illegal plant to produce, sell, or consume.
Laws on Cannabis In India
Under Section 20 of the NDPS Act, the possession, trade, and consumption of cannabis is illegal - and can elicit a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh and jail time of up to 10 years, depending on the quantity.
Despite the ruling, there are exceptions to the rule. According to the central government, the use of cannabis is permitted for medical, scientific, industrial, and horticultural purposes. Under the NDPS Act, the Centre realizes that there is a clear difference between the different parts of the cannabis plant – as products extracted from its leaves, stems, seeds, and fibers are treated differently than those sourced from its flowers.
Under Section 10, the law states that a license for the cultivation of any cannabis plant can be approved by the State Government. Uttarakhand was the first state to permit the commercial cultivation of hemp plants, and later Madhya Pradesh followed. In 2020, India’s first medical cannabis clinic was launched - and soon after, several hemp-based start-ups popped up in different parts of the country. (Woohoo!)
The Future Of Cannabis In India
The harmful side effects of cannabis, in general, are far lower than those of alcohol - and as a medicinal product, the side effects are lesser than traditional allopathic drugs. Hemp protein is a nutritional superfood that offers vast benefits for health and is approved by the FSSAI as safe to consume. As more research goes into the subject, the quality and quantity of safe hemp products will take India by storm.
To help relieve life-long ailments, cancer treatments, chronic pain, and digestion problems, full-spectrum cannabis extracts are now available in India. Companies like India Hemp Organics are working tirelessly to destigmatize the use of hemp oils and proteins, to heal the body and mind of all those that need it. If you want to learn more about the potential of hemp oils and dietary proteins, you can do so on our website! If you want to shop for hemp oils or proteins - you can rest assured that it is perfectly legal to do so!