Prospects of Hemp in India

By Madhav Grover

When talking about the hemp or cannabis plant, one’s immediate reaction is to associate it with psychoactive drugs, namely Marijuana. The substance which makes Marijuana a psychoactive substance is determined by the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in the plant. When we look upon Hemp, it has a more significant percentage of Cannabidiol (CBD) and a negligible amount of THC making it a consumer good which does not fall in the ambit of narcotics which are illegalized. The THC level Industrial Hemp flowers are typically between 0.2% and 0.3%, as compared to a high THC level of 5% to 10% in Marijuana. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 clearly states that cannabis plant with THC levels lower than 0.3% can get legal approval for commercial cultivation as a right under the state list

Industrial hemp is an environment-friendly, sustainable and adaptive climate crop which can grow from 95 cm to even 5 m in height depending upon the seed variants, climatic conditions, and water availability. The soil that is traditionally rich in nitrogen is preferred as ideal for Hemp cultivation and the temperature variation of 12 to 28 degree Celsius helps in the fast growth of the plants. The central plains of India near the Ganges river basin are believed to be perfect for hemp cultivation, the hilly regions, and water scarce areas can also result positively in the cultivation of the plant. The average rainfall in India ranges between 350-700 mm on average, which are apt to cultivate industrial Hemp successfully. India also has a greater photoperiod in comparison to countries like Canada and the US for instance, which is beneficial for the growth of the plant; this is primarily due to its geographical location being tropical. The plant can also be modified based on the planting density fiber and seed yield can be varied, through which desired products can be enhanced with minimal efforts. The plant grows in the wild mainly in North India, particularly in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.  

There are two basic categories of classification while analyzing the products which can be obtained from the plant. One category of products derived are consumer and industrial goods, and the other category includes medicinal goods. Consumer goods include oils, chocolates, beauty products, and cosmetics, coffee beans, and other edibles, etc. Industrial products– include, bio-fuel, food, textiles, construction and automobile parts, paints, wood varnish, supercapacitors, footwear, and biodegradable composites used in packaging, etc. Interestingly, Hemp is used to produce more than 25,000 products.  

When we compare Hemp to conventional crops such as cotton, it requires less water and no pesticides which help maintain the fertility of the soil. The plant also has three growing seasons throughout the year whereas cotton only has one per year, therefore, providing a higher output with equal land. There is a research which shows Hemp uses 180 gallons of water to produce a shirt compared to cotton using 720 gallons of water to produce the same. Hemp’s average fiber production per acre is 225 to 370 kilograms compared to 50 to 200 kg for cotton.

The other important aspect of this plant is its medicinal properties, but due to lack of research in this area, it’s tough to examine the full extent of such claims. A critical study, however, shows that THC and CBD both stimulates the CB1 receptors in our brains, but there is a distinction. THC stimulates the receptor aggressively and frequently triggering the psychoactive effects of marihuana like impaired motor skills, disturbing sensory reception, and anxiety. CBD, however, stimulates the receptor very lightly and causes relief from anxiety, stress, and hyper-excitability. This is also due to CBD engaging with other brain receptors like CB2 and 5-HT1A. One study also shows that although CBD has medicinal effects mentioned in specific dosage, their doses in consumer products are very less; therefore, not giving the desired medicinal results of reducing anxiety and pain.  

When we look at the global hemp economy, we can see China be the largest supplier of Industrial emp in the world with as a share of 20 percent of total production followed by countries like Canada, US, France, Chile, etc. There are various companies like Bombay hemp Company (Boheco), Health Horizons,  Foxxy, Hempsters, Vedi, and GreenJams, which are currently operating in India. According to The Namrata Hemp Company, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone have enough resources to capture $30 billion in revenues by 2030.

There have been various advancements towards the outlook of the product in India with regard to people now being more acceptive of it. The Indian Hemp Association (IHA), along with various other companies and organizations, have been pushing towards spreading awareness about the plant and its capabilities. The council of scientific and industrial research was granted a license to research medicinal properties of the cannabis plant in 2017. The IHA was granted a license to grow and cultivate Hemp Plant by the Uttarakhand government in 2018. The scope of awareness about the benefits and side-effects of the plant needs to be spread amongst the general public. When we look at the plant, there is still a need for people to get aware of the different benefits and side-effects of using products derived from the plant. The Government has to also relook upon its position of still banning the cultivation of the plants and classifying it under the ambit of the NDPS Act to enable more research on the subject. The industrial capabilities of the plant should be explored, and there should be extensive research on medicinal properties of the plant. There is also the aspect of India engaging in a component which is found so widely in the subcontinent and has functional production capabilities. 

Madhav Grover is a 2nd-year student at Jindal School of International Affairs. 


References

  1. “Indian Hemp Association.” Indianhempassociation.com. N.p., 2019..
  2. “The Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.” Cbn.nic.in. N.p., 
  3. Sharma, Rohit. “Industrial Hemp Facts And Its Relevance For India.” The Statesman. N.p., 2018. 
  4. Shah, Ruchika, and Salil Panchal. “On The Hemp Trail: Boheco’s Attempt To Build A New Narrative Around Cannabis | Forbes India.” Forbes India. N.p., 2018. 
  5. Bouloc, Pierre, ed. Hemp: industrial production and uses. CABI, 2013.
  6. Nosowitz, Dan. “CBD, The Super-Popular Cannabis Compound, Explained.” Vox. N.p., 2019. 
  7. Sharma, Rohit. “Industrial Hemp Facts And Its Relevance For India.” The Statesman. N.p., 2018. 
  8. D souza, Vanita. “Guess Which Indian Companies Are Sailing High On Hemp.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 2018. 
  9. Jayan, TV. “Cannabis Cultivation Is Now Legal In Uttarakhand.” businessline. N.p., 2018.
  10. Image source: Hemp

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