Shimla: The cultivation of Cannabis (bhang), a wild weed grown illegally in the remote valleys of Himachal that has gained notoriety for its narcotic use as a source of charas, is likely to be made legal for medicinal and industrial use by the new Congress government in the state.
“Cannabis cultivation will play a significant role in generating revenue for the state. It is going to be beneficial to the state’s pharmaceutical sector because of its medicinal properties. We will explore its industrial as well as medicinal use in the state,” Himachal Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu said.
Some of the traditional artisans and women in remote Kullu and Mandi villages also use hemp/cannabis fibre to make handicraft products and earn their livelihoods.They get raw material, mainly from Uttarakhand, or locally.
The Himachal Pradesh government is already contemplating legalising the cultivation of cannabis in the state after a demand made in the state assembly by several sitting MLAs, both from the ruling Congress and BJP.
On Saturday, a team of legislators also drove to neighbouring Uttarakhand to study possibilities for legal cultivation of the plant in some of the districts including Kullu and Mandi where illegal trade of charas, a narcotics by-product of cannabis has already created a parallel economy.
State’s Revenue and Tribal Development Minister Jagat Singh Negi, who heads the committee of MLAs constituted by the Chief Minister a month back, said “all aspects of legalised cannabis cultivation will be studied thoroughly before submitting the report. We will complete the exercise in the next two months” Negi told India Narrative.
The committee has five members, two of them from the BJP.
Negi informed “We are studying all aspects to start cultivation of cannabis for industrial and non-narcotic use. We are visiting areas where legal cultivation of cannabis takes place to understand the pros and cons of cannabis cultivation. Today, we visited the Aromatic Plant Centre at Shailakui in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). Within two months, we will submit a report and on that basis, the government will take further decisions,”
During the visit to the Aroma Plant Centre, the committee obtained detailed information on various aspects for starting cannabis cultivation. Technical information has also been obtained from various experts.
Nripendra Chauhan, Director Aromatic Plant Centre apprised the committee about different technical aspects relating to cannabis (also called hemp) through a virtual presentation. He also informed that, the global market of industrial hemp was about Rs 5,600 crore in 2022, which is expected to increase to about Rs 15,000 crore by the year 2027.
The committee also obtained information regarding the state-of-the-art plant nursery, cultivation of medicinal plants, and aromatic flowers in the centre. The members of the committee also deliberated on the draft prepared by the Plant Centre to legalize cannabis cultivation.
The committee, as the next step, will seek views on experiences of the farmers who are into cultivating cannabis in Uttarakhand.
Kewal Singh Pathania, a first-time Congress MLA from Shahpur (Kangra), who is a member of the committee, said cannabis cultivation could play a significant role in generating revenue for the hill State. Till now, the state government was not getting any income while cannabis was being illegally grown in some areas of the state for illegal drug trade that made the state infamous for narcotics drug smuggling only.
Sukhu said cannabis cultivation had been kept under the legal purview in several States. “Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to legalise cannabis cultivation in 2017. Controlled cultivation is being done in some districts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, controlled cultivation of cannabis has been permitted in several countries such as Uruguay, Canada, the U.S.A., Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic,” says the Chief Minister
Under the National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act the states are empowered to permit, by general or special order, the cultivation of hemp, only for obtaining fibre or seeds or for horticultural and medicinal purposes. The cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes such as making industrial hemp or for horticultural use is legal in India.
“ The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances recognizes cannabis as a source of biomass, fibre, and high-value oil. It has played an important role in ancient cultures” maintains Devan Khanna, a young advocate, who had recently filed a PIL in the state High Court.
The High Court some time back when the BJP was in power, had passed an interim order asking the state government to explore industrial and medicinal use of hemp /cannabis in the state.