Cannabis has been a disputed area in the country for a long time. It is defined as a sacred plant, but at the same time it is maligned as a bad drunk. But this is a moment of hope for the new generation of cannabis entrepreneurs. Startups like Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco), Hempcan Solutions and Everest EcoHemp are part of the industry going through an early stage. The industry is feeling the call for increased acceptance. It wants policy-makers to take concrete decisions to open the door to possibilities in cannabis as a miraculous plant.
The industry has received a ray of hope from the UN decision, which re-classified cannabis as a less dangerous narcotic in December 2020. India is also among the 53 member countries of the United Nations drug policy-making body – the Narcotics Commission, which voted in favor of removing cannabis from Schedule Four of the 1961 Drug Addiction Agreement. Under this agreement, cannabis was included in harmful substances that have little or no use in treatment. In fact, this vote has made it easier to recognize the properties of cannabis used in medicine or treatment. However, it will continue to be considered a harmful drug for non-scientific and non-medical purposes.
Boheco co-founder Jahan Peston James said, “India’s turnout was a highly positive response for industry, academics and medical experts.” He said, “One of the most important impacts will be the interaction with THC and CBD with pharmaceutical and nutritional medicinal institutions and the cultivation and use of flowers for medical use.”
In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 makes the amateur use of cannabis illegal. It prohibits the production and sale of hemp resin and flowers, but keeps seeds and leaves out of its purview. Its leaves have been considered as a substance used in Ayurvedic and Unani medicines under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
James said that cannabis seed is in the final stages of being classified and notified as an official food ingredient by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The October 2020 notification of the Ministry of Health stated that cannabis seeds and its products obtained from the hemp sativa plant could be sold as food or used as an ingredient in the food sold, provided they had some Certain criteria have to be met.
Boheco, an industrial and medical cannabis organization, has produced commercial hemp products over the years, including hemp cloths, hemp seeds and oil-based edible and leaf-based hygienic products. It has been eight years since the company was founded, Whom Ratan Tata is also providing financial help. The company has tried to develop a mechanism with policy-makers and regulators to approve plant cultivation and research for industrial and medical purposes. It has teamed up with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) -National Botanical Research Institute in Uttar Pradesh to obtain one of the first licenses for cannabis cultivation for research in India. It has stored over 300 varieties for a seed bank with CSIR partners. They are being studied for different THC and CBD levels and the quality of fiber and seed.
Boheco has also been at the forefront of market sales of licensed products such as clinical trials and gout treatment oils. “Over the past two years, we have provided products to 15,000 patients and worked with more than 100 doctors,” James said.
According to a report published a year ago by the US-based consultancy Grand View Research, the ‘global legalized Marijuana (also known as cannabis) market is projected to grow at 18.3 percent compound annual growth rate by $ 20 billion by 2027. . There are about 10 companies in this sector in India. Here, the industry of cannabis seed-based food and cannabis-based health products is estimated to be $ 12 to 14 billion annually. Hempcan Solutions, an Odisha-based startup, opened the first cannabis clinic in Bangalore a year ago. This seven-year-old company is expecting positive policy changes after voting at the United Nations. Its founder Saurabh Agarwal said, “We have to see how the government is doing and how tight it wants to control the plant, which is not as harmful as it is believed to be.”
He said that his company has received a good response so far. Dilsher Singh Dhaliwal, director (operational and strategic alliances) of Everest Eco Hemp, said that cannabis has also been called a triumph in Sanskrit as it has many therapeutic properties. He said, “Ironically, Himachal Pradesh’s high-grade varieties are not sold here, but in Amsterdam.” It is a Gurugram-based startup and license holder. It grows cannabis on 250 acres. It started in the year 2016, with the objective of providing raw materials to the industry. It is lobbying in the government. But Dhaliwal says that officer red tape, strict rules, and negative perception remain a major obstacle. Dhaliwal said that the Bollywood drug addiction syndicate controversy born after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput last year has further discredited Bhang. Dhaliwal said, ‘ The government wants farmers to grow crops other than rice and wheat and bring a new green revolution. Cannabis can play an important role in this. ‘