World Cannabis Day: Should Medical Cannabis Be Legalized And Commercialized In India?

Every year, April 20 is celebrated as World Cannabis Day or World Weed Day. Also referred to as 420 Day in cannabis culture, it is observed as the unofficial holiday by cannabis producers, consumers and advocates from around the world raising their demand to legalize the herb for medicinal and recreational uses. Although cannabis still classified as illegal by federal law in the United States, many US states have legalized the substance for medicinal or recreational use — or both.

In India, cannabis is known by numerous names in India, such as weed, marijuana, bhang, charas, and ganja and it has been used for thousands of years for religious and medicinal purposes. However, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985(1), the sale and production of cannabis resin (charas) and flowers (ganja) is prohibited, and possession of these drugs is considered a criminal act.

The definition of cannabis under the NDPS Act, however, doesn’t include cannabis seeds and leaves. Hence bhang (made using leaves and seeds) is openly consumed in India on numerous religious occasions. The centre has given the states to regulate and form their own laws relating to consumption, possession, sale or purchase of cannabis leaves and seeds.

Given the numerous benefits of medical cannabis, demands for legalising its use for medicinal purposes is growing stronger. In January 2022, the Centre told the Delhi High Court that there’s no complete ban on cannabis use in the country, and that its medical and scientific use is allowed under the law.

Here’s what leaders in the India’s medical cannabis industry say about legalization and commercialization  of medical cannabis.

Legalization of medical cannabis has become a necessity in India

Shivam Singhee, Co-founder and CEO, AWSHAD says, “The legalization of medical cannabis in India is not an option anymore, in fact it has become a necessity. In order to revolutionize the health sector in the country, there is a need of progressive policies on the use of medical cannabis. Over the years, the health and wellness products derived from cannabis have demonstrated to be game changers and they can provide relief in several day-to-day problems.”

“There is a need of bridging the gap of knowledge and communication between the experts and the lawmakers which will help the business holders in communicating on ground reality. It will also facilitate the lawmakers in understanding the problems which the business sector is facing and to amend the regulations accordingly,” Singhee adds.

AWSHAD is a healthcare wellness startup excelling in the medical field through the help of Medical Cannabis.

India should recognise the potential of medical use of Cannabis

According to Varun Rungta, General Secretary, PIMCHA, the global demand for cannabis derived medicines is increasing, but India’s medical cannabis industry is not ready to compete in the international market.

He opines that while interest in the cannabis space is growing in India, the lack of preparedness structurally and legally has delayed the growth of this sector.

He cites the example of countries which have adopted a more nuanced approach to medical cannabis derived drugs, with mainstreaming of CBD topical products, over-the-counter oils, tinctures and capsules.

Recognizing the potential of medical use of cannabis and legalizing can not only help reduce the country’s disease burden, but also increase its share of exports, create employment opportunities, and a new source of income for our farmers, he adds.

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