In recent years, India has witnessed a significant shift in its attitude towards cannabis. What was once considered a taboo subject is now being discussed openly and is even gaining acceptance in certain circles. The cannabis culture in India is experiencing a transformation, and this article aims to delve into the various aspects of this evolving phenomenon. Whether you are a historian, a medical professional, or just curious about the evolving societal norms, there's something intriguing about how cannabis is making its presence felt in the country.
What is Cannabis
Cannabis is a general name for drugs like hemp, marijuana, and hash that are made from the plant Cannabis sativa. Cannabis has psychoactive properties, which means it can affect the mind and mood of the user. Cannabis contains more than 100 compounds called cannabinoids, the most well-known of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the main substance that causes the high or euphoria that some people experience when using cannabis, while CBD has some potential medical benefits.
Historical Significance of Cannabis in India
Cannabis has a long and continuous history in India, dating back to ancient times. The earliest mention of cannabis can be found in The Vedas, sacred Hindu texts compiled as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C. According to The Vedas, cannabis was considered one of the five sacred plants, and it was believed that a guardian angel resided in its leaves. Cannabis was regarded as a source of happiness and joy, helping people attain delight and lose fear. It was also associated with the god Shiva, who became known as the Lord of Bhang.
“The earliest mention of cannabis has been found in The Vedas, or sacred Hindu texts. These writings may have been compiled as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C. According to The Vedas, cannabis was one of five sacred plants and a guardian angel lived in its leaves.” 1
“The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear (Abel, 1980). It releases us from anxiety.”
“The god Shiva is frequently associated with cannabis, called bhang in India. According to legend, Shiva wandered off into the fields after an angry discourse with his family. Drained from the family conflict and the hot sun, he fell asleep under a leafy plant. When he awoke, his curiosity led him to sample the leaves of the plant. Instantly rejuvenated, Shiva made the plant his favorite food and he became known as the Lord of Bhang.”
“During the Middle Ages, soldiers often took a drink of bhang before entering battle, just as Westerners took a swig of whiskey.”
“Cannabis has been popular in India since the beginning of recorded history and is often taken as a drink.”
“The British found the use of cannabis so extensive in colonial India that they commissioned a large-scale study in the late 1890s (Iverson, 2008).
Current Cannabis Landscape in India
The current cannabis landscape in India is a complex and dynamic one, with various legal, social, cultural, and economic aspects. Cannabis is a plant that has been used for various purposes in India for thousands of years, such as medicine, religion, recreation, and industry.
Cannabis also has potential medical and industrial uses in India, which are currently underdeveloped due to legal restrictions and social stigma. Cannabis has been used as a traditional medicine in India for various conditions, such as epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, glaucoma, and PTSD. There is also a lack of regulation and standardization of medical cannabis products and prescriptions. Currently, only a few states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur have allowed or proposed the cultivation of cannabis for medical or research purposes.
Cannabis also has industrial applications in India, especially in the production of hemp fiber and oil. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that has low levels of THC (the psychoactive compound) and high levels of CBD (the non-psychoactive compound). Hemp fiber can be used to make textiles, paper, rope, canvas, and biodegradable plastics. Hemp oil can be used to make cosmetics, food supplements, biofuels, and paints. Hemp cultivation can also benefit the environment by reducing soil erosion, water consumption, pesticide use, and carbon emissions. However, hemp production in India is also hampered by legal barriers and a lack of awareness and infrastructure. Only a few states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir have allowed or proposed the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.
One of the recent developments in the legal status of cannabis in India is the petition filed by the Great Legalisation Movement India Trust to decriminalize the use of cannabis in the Delhi High Court. The petition has challenged the provisions of the NDPS Act that criminalize the use of cannabis as violative of various provisions of the constitution of India. The petitioner has argued that cannabis has medicinal and industrial benefits and that its prohibition violates the fundamental rights of citizens to health, privacy equality , trade , and religion. The Centre has responded that there is no complete ban on cannabis under the NDPS Act but its use is allowed for medical, scientific industrial , and horticultural purposes by obtaining requisite permissions from respective State Governments and Ministry of Ayush.
The current cannabis landscape in India is therefore a paradoxical one that reflects the historical legacy , cultural diversity , legal ambiguity , social reality , and economic potential of the plant in the country. There are many challenges and opportunities for the development of a regulated and sustainable cannabis industry in India that can benefit the farmers , consumers , patients , entrepreneurs , researchers , and policymakers alike. However, this would require a comprehensive and evidence-based approach that considers the legal framework, public health, human rights, social justice, environmental protection, economic development, and cultural sensitivity aspects of cannabis in India.
The Future of Cannabis in India
The future of cannabis in India is a topic that has been gaining attention and interest in recent years, as more countries around the world have legalized or decriminalized cannabis for various purposes.
The medical potential of cannabis in India is based on its rich history of traditional medicine, as well as its emerging scientific evidence. Cannabis has been used as an ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine for various conditions, such as epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, glaucoma, and PTSD.
However, the medical use of cannabis in India faces many challenges and barriers, such as the lack of regulation and standardization of cannabis products and prescriptions, the lack of awareness and education among doctors and patients, the social stigma and legal risks associated with cannabis use, and the competition from other pharmaceutical drugs. There are also some private companies and NGOs that are working to develop and promote medical cannabis products in India, such as Great Legalisation Movement , Indian Cannabis Research Institute , among others.
The industrial potential of cannabis in India is based on its ideal climatic conditions for cultivation, as well as its diverse applications in various sectors. Cannabis can be used to produce hemp fibre and oil , which have many uses in textiles , paper , rope , canvas , biodegradable plastics , cosmetics , food supplements , biofuels , and paints . Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that has low levels of THC (less than 0.3%) and high levels of CBD. Hemp cultivation can also benefit the environment by reducing soil erosion , water consumption , pesticide use , and carbon emissions .
However, the industrial use of cannabis in India also faces many challenges and barriers , such as the legal restrictions and confusion , the lack of awareness and infrastructure , the competition from other crops and materials , and the social stigma and legal risks associated with cannabis cultivation . There are also some private companies and NGOs that are working to develop and promote hemp products in India , such as Indian Industrial Hemp Association , Hemp Foundation , among others .
The industrial and medical future of cannabis in India is therefore a promising but complicated one that requires a comprehensive and evidence-based approach that considers the legal framework , public health , human rights , social justice , environmental protection , economic development , and cultural sensitivity aspects of cannabis in India . There are many opportunities and benefits for India to harness the potential of cannabis for its people and its economy , but there are also many challenges and risks that need to be addressed carefully . Cannabis is a complex and controversial topic that has many aspects and implications . It is important to be informed and responsible when using or making any decisions about cannabis .