Ganja Research: Patanjali comes to the aid of stoners and industrialists – Suneera Tandon

Sadhu smoking a chillum

Suneera TandonWhile cannabis’s use is widespread as an intoxicant in India, it’s not widely used industrially. As a result, only a handful of companies and legislators have sought to get it legalised, doing which could also help provide a livelihood to farmers. And an intervention by Ramdev’s firm could surely help the cause. – Suneera Tandon

India’s leading ayurveda-based products maker now wants to ace cannabis research.

Patanjali Ayurved is stepping up studies on the plant’s medicinal and industrial properties, its chief executive Balkrishna told Quartz.

“In ayurveda, since ancient times, parts of cannabis (hemp), for instance, have been used for medicinal purposes. So, we are looking at various formulations. We should ponder over the benefits and positive uses of the cannabis plant,” Balkrishna said over a call.

At its research and development centre in Haridwar, a team of some 200 scientists is looking into the benefits of various indigenous Indian plant species and their extracts for use in medicines and other products. Cannabis is one of them.

The yoga guru Ramdev-led company, which has already made a fortune selling ayurveda-based face cleansers, toothpaste, and detergents, has for a while been looking for new growth avenues. It has now taken a cue from western countries where the legal cannabis economy is booming.

“In western markets, parts of the cannabis plants are being used for fibre for cloth or some kinds of oils. Similarly, we are doing some research to see that the harmful or intoxicating properties (of cannabis) are removed and then it is used,” Balkrishna said.

India, however, is yet to officially recognise the cannabis economy. In other markets such as the US, where the use of the plant is legal in some states, sales of cannabis generated close to $8 billion in 2017.

Cannabis in India

Cannabis cultivation and trade are partially restricted in India.

While its cultivation for industrial purposes (i.e. obtaining fibre such as industrial hemp or for horticultural use) is allowed, consuming it could lead to a jail term of six months or a hefty fine. Overall, its use and legality come under the purview of the finance ministry’s department of revenue and are governed by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

There are two main species of cannabis plants, Cannabis sativa L and Cannabis indica. The sativa species contains strong fibre and is used mostly for industrial purposes (like making hemp fibre), while indica has medicinal and recreational uses. The main difference between the two is their tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, content. THC is what determines cannabis’s mind-altering properties and the indica variety contains more of it. In fact, the Indian government encourages the research and cultivation of cannabis with low THC content. The national policy (pdf) on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances even recognises cannabis as a source of biomass, fibre, and high-value oil.

Patanjali is working on these lines, Balkrishna said. For while cannabis’s use is widespread as an intoxicant in India, it’s not widely used industrially. As a result, only a handful of companies and legislators have sought to get it legalised, doing which could also help provide a livelihood to farmers. And an intervention by Ramdev’s firm could surely help the cause.

“There exists a huge market for cannabis in India. A lot of scientific research needs to be done, especially for those who are framing the laws,” said Yash Kotak, founder and director of Mumbai-based startup, The Bombay Hemp Company. Backed by Ratan Tata, this firm has been using hemp fibre to make clothes and hemp seeds for topical oils.

Balkrishna had pushed for cannabis earlier, too. In a 2014 video (see below), he is seen explaining the medicinal use of the hemp seeds (derived from the cannabis sativa plant).

“The cannabis economy in India is just getting started,” Kotak said. In Ramdev’s Patanjali, it also has a powerful new backer. – Quartz, 6 February 2018


Delhi and Mumbai are among the world’s most stoned cities

Indians just keep on rolling.

Delhi and Mumbai ranked among the world’s top 10 cities with the highest rates of cannabis (marijuana or weed) consumption per year, according to a study by Seedo, an Israel-based firm that sells devices to grow weed at home.

Across the border, Pakistan’s commercial capital, Karachi, where cannabis trade is illegal, is the second-largest consumer of cannabis across the 120 cities surveyed for Seedo’s 2018 Cannabis Price Index.

In fact, these south Asian cities also sell some of the cheapest cannabis in the world, priced at between $4 and $5 for a gram, albeit of lower quality. On the other end, India is also home to one of the most expensive varieties of hashish.

World's most stoned cities

In India, the cannabis plant grows openly in hilly regions, making it fairly accessible to users. However, its cultivation and trade are partially restricted.

The usage and legality of cannabis come under the purview of the ministry of finance, department of revenue, and are controlled by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. While India allows the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes (such as hemp that is used to make fibre), its consumption could lead to a jail term of six months or a fine of Rs 10,000 ($157). Illegal production and cultivation can lead to a jail term of up to 10 years.

Yet, this hasn’t deterred Indians from smoking up. In fact, cannabis dominated India’s illicit drug trade, according to 2016 data on drug seizures.

Seedo studied the consumption and pricing of cannabis by looking at the top and bottom cannabis-consuming countries around the world. It then analysed nations where marijuana is partially or completely legal—or illegal—to prepare the final list of 120 cities. Prices per city are derived from crowd-sourced city-level surveys adjusted to the World Drug Report 2017 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Conversations around legalising the consumption of cannabis for medicinal purposes have been gaining ground in India. In 2015, a member of parliament pushed to legalise marijuana, citing the benefits of consuming weed. – Quartz, 31 January 2018

One Response

  1. Lesotho Cannabis Farm

    Lesotho Becomes First African Country To Legalise Cannabis Cultivation – Swarajya Staff – Swarajya – 9 Feb 2018

    The tiny landlocked country of Lesotho has taken the lead towards legalisation of cannabis in Africa, having legalised its cultivation by US based Corix Bioscience, Globe Newswire has reported.

    Lesotho, a small country of 2 million people, and entirely surrounded by South Africa had earlier awarded the first commercial license to hold, cultivate and supply cannabis to Lesotho based Pharmaceutical Development Company (PDC), which has now been acquired by Corix.

    The license allows Corix to import and the export cannabis and cannabis resin in various forms to about 30 countries in the European Union, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and New Zealand.

    Verve Dynamics, a South African company has also been granted the license since. The company had released a statement saying, “The Government’s decision to move forward with this historic decision means that Lesotho will play a significant role in developing this industry, both locally and internationally, as well as establishing itself as a pioneer on the African continent with regards to state of the art extraction equipment.”

    However, cannabis cultivation for locals is still prohibited which has led to calls for reforming regulations in this regard.

    As legalisation is slowly gaining pace across the world, cannabis still faces government imposed hurdles in India, despite burgeoning domestic demand. Lately, Patanjali has also shown interest in cannabis research in India owing to its huge potential in the Indian medical market.

    Liked by 1 person

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