What Uttarakhand's Plan To Legally Cultivate Cannabis Really Means - Homegrown

What Uttarakhand's Plan To Legally Cultivate Cannabis Really Means

While all appreciators of recreational marijuana and hashish might associate the word cannabis with rolled-up products of this plant, we'd like to take this opportunity to widen the scope of the word and its significance in India, calling out the far and wide uses of cannabis for things other than, well, getting high. In November of last year, Uttarakhand's government announced its plans to hand out licenses to farmers allowing them to cultivate cannabis, causing something of a frenzy via media amidst all recreational drug users. But before red eyes are rubbed in excitement and disbelief, let's break down exactly what that means.
Uttarakhand's cannabis cultivation plan
As per the state's Chief Minister Harish Rawat, villagers across Uttarakhand except for the regions of Terai and Bhabhar will be provided with a license to legally grow cannabis. The most important addition to that sentence is that this cultivation will be purely for industrial purposes, such as production of hemp and cannabis fibres. According to a Ministry of Textile report, India's annual potential for hemp-based textile is estimated as high as Rs. 240 crore, making this endeavour in Uttarakhand a highly lucrative one, especially with the growing international demand for hemp fibre. So what makes this cannabis cultivation fit for industrial purposes, but unfit for recreational ones? The answer to that question is two-fold.Yes to industrial, no to recreational
THC Content
Let's start with the first side of the coin: the level of Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, in the cultivated cannabis. While there are two largely-cultivated variants of this plant, indica represents the type used less for industrial purposes, and more for recreational or medicinal ones. Sativa, the sister variant which is fit for industrial use, is the one prominently grown in Uttarakhand. As officials of the excise department stated, "The normal ranges of THC content in plants that grow wild in Uttarakhand in abundance is four to five per cent and this is which makes it give a high when smoked and is illegal to cultivate." Rawat's plans involve specially developed cannabis seeds with a THC content between 0.3 and 1.5 percent, where the only effect it can have on you upon smoking it is probably a slight head ache.
Legally grown cannabis
Several companies such as The Hemp Couture (THC) and Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) sell hemp-based fabric and textile material, and have been doing so for years. So how is it that they can legally grow this plant? The answer is simple. According to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, cultivating cannabis for medical, scientific, horticulture and industrial purposes has always been legal, albeit with a license. As Avnish Pandya, co-founder of BOHECO tells us, “We talked to the licensing department officials about our plans and operations very specifically, showed them some of our sample products, and realised that they just lacked knowledge about the uses of hemp plants and their potential as an industry. Once we clarified our objectives and the legality of our work, we were actively helped to get the required licenses.”
Uttarakhand's government now plans on providing villagers with the necessary legal licenses to grow cannabis seeds with THC content between 0.3 and 1.5, seeds which will be developed by the renowned state agriculture university Pant Nagar University in collaboration with Almora's Vivekanand Research Centre. This move would provide farmers with a much-needed cash crop, as well as provide employment to a lot of unskilled workers.The legalization debate: Here's why this is a good thing
While the stigma surrounding cannabis stems from the narcotic and psychotropic uses of the plant, the benefits of its legalization get lost in the shouting match, and lobbyists for industrial hemp are silenced in the bargain. Indian farmers cultivating hemp would benefit from the huge Indian industry it would supply to, giving China, Germany and France--who currently dominate this market--a run for their money. So while recreational cannabis users might be disappointed upon learning the true intention behind Uttarakhand's plan to hand out cannabis cultivation licenses, especially after misleading headlines and posters reading 'Uttarakhand legalizes cannabis' found themselves running across social media, there's still a reason to celebrate this government's move.

 Words: Rhea Almeida

 

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