Is the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes Permitted in India?

5 Minute Read

Picture this: a bustling marketplace in ancient India, where traders and healers exchanged not just spices and fabrics, but also secrets of nature's healing power locked within cannabis. Fast forward to today, where we're still unraveling the mysteries of this plant.

As we delve deeper, we'll find ourselves at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. The Ministry of Ayush also lends its perspective to this age-old wisdom. But it's not just tradition that's shaping the discourse. Brace yourself for an eye-opening twist as we dive into the corridors of the Delhi High Court. Their insights into the ongoing debates about cannabis for medicinal use will leave you pondering.

So, whether you're a curious soul, a history buff, or just someone seeking new perspectives, join us as we unravel the enigma of medical cannabis in India. 

What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis is a term used to describe the use of the Cannabis plant and its components for therapeutic or medical purposes. This involves utilizing various parts of the plant, such as its leaves, seeds, or extracts, to alleviate symptoms, manage medical conditions, or improve the overall well-being of individuals.

The Cannabis plant contains compounds called cannabinoids, the most well-known of which are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These cannabinoids interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates various physiological processes such as pain sensation, mood, appetite, and immune response.

Medical cannabis is prescribed by healthcare professionals in some regions where it is legal and approved for specific medical conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chemotherapy-induced side effects. 

However, it's important to note that the legality and regulations surrounding medical cannabis vary from one region to another in India. In 2018, Uttarakhand became the first state in India to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crops (a variety of cannabis with low THC and high CBD content). In 2019, Madhya Pradesh followed suit. In 2020, India opened its first medical cannabis clinic in Bengaluru, called Vedi Wellness Centre.

History of CBD in Ancient India

The history of Cannabidiol in ancient India is deeply rooted in the country's rich tradition of hemp cultivation. Dating back to 4000-3000 BC, the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts, provide the earliest mentions of hemp and its diverse applications. Within the Vedas, the Atharvaveda specifically highlights hemp's significance in magic and medicine, praising it as one of the five sacred plants capable of alleviating human suffering.

In the past, hemp cultivation thrived across India until the 20th century, when legal restrictions and societal stigma emerged. The stigma was influenced by political, social, and cultural factors. Key events contributing to the negative perception were the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, Reefer Madness propaganda, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and the War on Drugs under Nixon. Additionally, limited scientific research hindered the recognition of CBD and cannabis' medical benefits until later years. Presently, hemp cultivation remains illegal in most of India, with exceptions in certain states allowing it for industrial or medicinal purposes.

CBD in Contemporary India

In contemporary India, CBD continues to hold a significant place in the country's medical landscape. While cannabis and its derivatives face legal restrictions, CBD has gained recognition for its potential therapeutic benefits. Several Indian states have legalized the use of  CBD-rich products for medicinal purposes, especially for conditions like chronic pain, epilepsy, and anxiety. 

In reference to the Ministry of Ayush in India, CBD (Cannabidiol) has garnered attention and interest for its potential therapeutic applications. The Ministry of Ayush is responsible for promoting traditional Indian systems of medicine, including Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy.

While the Ministry of Ayush has acknowledged the growing interest in CBD and its potential in medicinal applications, the regulatory framework surrounding CBD in India remains cautious. The legality and availability of CBD products vary from state to state, with some regions permitting their use for medical purposes under specific guidelines.

What does the Delhi High Court have to say?

In a statement presented on January 10, 2022, at the Delhi High Court, the Central Government of India clarified that the use of cannabis is not entirely prohibited in the country, as the law permits its use for medical and scientific purposes.

This statement was issued in response to a petition filed by theGreat Legalization Movement (GLM), which challenged the provisions of theNarcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 that prohibit cannabis use. The GLM Movement argued that cannabis has significant medical and industrial benefits.

In its petition, the GLM sought direction from the central government to establish regulations allowing the controlled use of cannabis, particularly for medicinal purposes. It also requested the court to declare as 'unconstitutional' the sections in the NDPS Act and Rules that criminalize and forbid the use of cannabis, imposing unreasonable restrictions on related activities.

Last year, the Centre responded to the petition, urging the court to dismiss it, as they claimed to have adopted a balanced approach towards cannabis. The Centre encouraged individual State Governments to regulate and permit the cultivation, production, manufacturing, possession, transport, import, export, sale, purchase, consumption, or use of cannabis (excluding charas) for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes.

The affidavit, filed by theDirector of Narcotics Control under theDepartment of Revenue,Ministry of Finance, stated, "There is no absolute ban on cannabis under the NDPS Act. It can be used for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes by obtaining the necessary permissions from the respective State Governments."

The Centre further emphasized thatState Governments are empowered to license cannabis cultivation for industrial and scientific purposes. 

The Centre's response highlighted that the NDPS Act makes a clear distinction between different parts of the cannabis plant, such as the fiber, flower, and seed, and does not treat them and their derivatives equally. For instance, the seeds and leaves, when unaccompanied by the tops, are not classified as cannabis. Furthermore,the preparation of cannabis known as Bhang, an edible form, is not regulated under the NDPS Act.

How to Begin the Journey with Medical Cannabis?

  • To explore medical cannabis in India, one must approach it cautiously and well-informed. Consultation with a doctor is essential for legal and safe products. 
  • Seek reputable organizations, choose suitable products, dosage, and delivery method, and be aware of benefits, risks, and side effects. 
  • Respect Indian laws and culture. 

India Hemp Organics promotes ethical cannabis use, sourcing high-quality products organically from the Himalayas. We aim to destigmatize and advocate for the many benefits that the cannabis plant provides.


The utilization of cannabis for medical purposes in India remains a subject of ongoing debate, thanks to westerns acts that maligned the use of the superplant. While the historical significance of cannabis, particularly CBD, in ancient Indian culture and medicine is well-established, its contemporary status is marked by legal restrictions and cautious regulation. 

But hey, we're on a mission to bring back the good vibes and let everyone know about the awesome health goodies cannabis has to offer! Let's bridge that gap between the old and the new, and make the most out of the plant's potential while keeping things safe and smart.

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