India Cannabis Legalization

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India course of action towards Cannabis Legalization

Following reports in February 2020 that India Cannabis legalization’s first medical cannabis clinic opened in Bangalore.  Partner Shantanu Sinha and Senior Associate Rohit Fogla from Hill Dickinson’s India Desk explore India’s history of cannabis and how recent events indicate that the country’s approach to the leaf may change.

Furthermore, India-based healthcare start-up HempStreet (which focuses on cannabis use Ayurvedic medicine) raised $1 million in pre-series A direct funding. perhaps the company will use the funding to support its technology growth, research development and launch a new set of cannabis-based products. 

Abhishek Mohan, the co-founder of HempStreet, even said they intend to set relatively new developmental milestones for the cannabis medicinal sector in the country.
They are also building cryptocurrency technology to track cannabis from seed to sale, eradicating the threat that the cannabis they cultivate will contribute to the major issue of substance addiction.

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It was mentioned earlier that last February 2020, a recent report on TOI (The Times of India) documented the specific background of NDPS and cannabis illegalization. Extracts from the study is mentioned below.

The 1961 “single convention on narcotic drugs” was the first-ever international treaty to have clubbed cannabis (or marijuana) with hard drugs and imposed a blanket ban on their production and supply except for medicinal and research purposes.

During the negotiations for the UN treaty signed in New York, a group of cannabis and opium-producing countries, led by India, opposed its intolerance to the sociocultural use of organic drugs. They were however overwhelmed by the US and other western countries which espoused tight controls on the production of organic raw material and on illicit trafficking.

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The sharp divergences between the caucuses led by India and the US emanated from their contrasting domestic policies, particularly on cannabis. While most of the states in the US had banned all narcotic drugs by the ’40s, India had a more pragmatic approach since its colonial days: its restrictions were focused on harder substances like opium.

The Indian hemp drug commission appointed in 1893, far from finding it addictive, hailed cannabis for the “mild euphoria” and “pleasant relaxation” caused by it. Thus, paving way to India cannabis legalization scheme.

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Policy Making Groundwork

In deference to the scale of traditional consumption in India, the 1961 treaty also gave it a reprieve of 25 years to clamp down on recreational drugs derived from the tops. It was towards the end of this exemption period that the Rajiv Gandhi government came up with a law in 1985 conforming to the 1961 treaty: the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances Act (NDPS).

Accordingly, NDPS replicated the loophole provided in the treaty’s definition of cannabis, whereby its leaves and seeds have been spared the stigma of contraband. Besides, NDPS specified that cannabis meant charas (the resin extracted from the plant), ganja (the flowering or fruiting tops of the plant) and any mixture or drink prepared from either of the two permitted forms of marijuana.

Thus, NDPS allows people to smoke pot or drink bhang so long as they can prove that they had consumed only the leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant.

In India, cannabis regulations are obsolete and need to be revised long-awaited. While the number of cannabis and hemp start-ups, and the increasing mainstream support for legalizing the plant, are promising, India’s cannabis legalization is still a long way off. Given the medical and economic motivations for legalizing cannabis, the full scope of legalization might not be released long before the Indian government.

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The future is bleak but promising

Although it has been a reliable component in the procedure of various illnesses for thousands of years, the use of cannabis in conventional medicine is curtailed by the obsolete cannabis laws of India.  For this purpose, India’s cannabis legalization is still a long way off, the increasing number of cannabis and hemp start-up companies and the expanding widespread support for plant legalization are promising. Given the fact the public health and social reasons for legalizing cannabis, it may not be long before the Indian Government unlocks the full potential of legalization. Until then, it will be noteworthy to see the achievement of India’s first medical cannabis clinic and how it will lay the groundwork for many other dispensaries.

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