India: Is Cannabis Legalization Imminent?

India can become the largest medical marijuana market in the world. The country has already started the arduous journey to restore the past glory of cannabis in society and economy. Now there are business owners wanting to legalize cannabis like Chief Executive, Balkrishna, of the herbal products company called Patanjali.

Moreover, other citizens around India are in immense support of legalizing cannabis. The questions begs us to ask,

“ Will India legalize cannabis since so many are in full support of the medical, industrial, and scientific purposes of the plant?”

As we explore further and unweave the mystery of cannabis in India, we’ll first understand what cannabis is then identify the true supporters of the plant that can lead to legalization. Lastly, we’ll identify the current legalization status of the cannabis industry within India. Now let’s see dive in and unmask the true intentions.


Why India Believes The Plant has Potential Benefits



India first started with the industrial potential of the plant. The plant most notably known as “hemp” or “marijuana” are two halves of the same plant that sparked a desirable interest to cultivate it.

“What are these two plants and are they different from one another?”

You’ll often come across several sources about these two plants being lumped together as one “whole” plant. Although they have the same genetic DNA under the same tree, the two grow differently and you can consume them differently. Hemp grows fast and it can produce more fiber than cotton and flax. It also grows in large tall stalks whereas marijuana a.k.a cannabis grows wide and in luscious abundance of buds. You can also eat hemp in the form of its’ hard shelled seeds or soft unshelled hemp hearts.

In contrast, cannabis is consumed through the use of a pipe, joint, baked edibles, raw juicing, tea, and coffee. The big difference lies within the effects they have inside the human body. Cannabis has a high THC content where it produces psychoactive effects when lighted. Hemp, on the other hand, has a lower THC content of 0.2%. This doesn’t produce the psychoactive effect which doesn’t give you the high feeling, even if you “attempt” to light it. The results aren’t promising and your left with a burnt plant when experimenting.

Now we know what these two plants are made of, we can agree with India that cultivating these two plants will surely produce positive benefits the country will experience. This desire started a few years back, when India decided to create a focus organization about cannabis and hemp.

Unmasking the Supporters Desiring to Legalize Cannabis



The Indian Industrial Hemp Association was formed in 2011 to promote the hemp industry. The march for supporting the plant started moving uphill as the land in India called Uttarakhand became the first state to legalize cannabis for cultivation and industrial purposes. The growing global demand for hemp fiber has led the state to this decision. However, farmers are limited as they can only sell their products to the government.

After exploring the industrial side of hemp, now India is focusing on the medical advantages of cannabis. The country has already issued its first license to grow cannabis for medical research. BOHECO (Bombay Hemp Company) is researching the benefits of cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy and chemotherapy-induced side effects.

Cannabis is also an indispensable part of the traditional Ayurveda medical system. Ayurveda treats hypertension, appetite loss and various other health problems with cannabis. Companies like BOHECO are bringing modern science and old traditions into one harmonious unity. The company is another supporter that can turn the tide to legalizing cannabis.

In addition, another supportive company called Patanjali Ayurved, a leading Ayurveda-based products maker, has joined the competition. The company is  researching the cannabis plant to create new products from medical and scientific purposes. According to a news report from quartz, the company quotes,

“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”  - Chief Executive of Patanjali, Balkrishna

The company is on their way to understanding cannabis as they are allowed to research the medical and scientific purpose of cannabis according to the government’s national policy.

These supporters that want to legalize cannabis may very well push India’s top leading authorities to legalize cannabis. If legalization were to happen, then more citizens will use this more often without fear of violating laws.


The Status of Cannabis in India As of 2018

Moreover, India banned cannabis in 1985 with the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (the NDPS Act). Although the act prohibited both medical and recreational use, it allows individual states to regulate the use of leaves and seeds.

The NDPS Act excludes bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis. Bhang has a spiritual and cultural importance in India. It’s consumed widely during the India Holi festival throughout many lands. Nevertheless, practices may differ from state to state. For example: the state of Assam, bhang remained illegal since the 1950s.

Even after 33 years, the act isn’t relevant in the modern world of India.  Since citizens use it for religious or celebrative reasons we can determine that the plant is here to stay.

The NDPS Act is outdated and government authorities may need to change it. It doesn’t reflect the realities of the present. India direly needs new laws that take into account the scientific findings of the last three decades on cannabis.

Last year Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi suggested legalizing cannabis for medical use. Important public figures such as Tathagata Satpathy and Dharamvir Gandhi, both members of the parliament, are supporting the legalization. India is in the right direction as more people are making the push to legalize cannabis for this new year of 2018.


What Will Happen This Year?

India’s cannabis industry is looking brighter and brighter as more supporters continue to help make the push to legalization. There are many scientific research on cannabis medical benefits and about hemp’s health benefits. These plants are two peas in a pod that will help make the world a better place. It’s only a matter of time until India fully legalizes cannabis on a wider scale.  


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19 Feb 2018

By Lucinda Nevarez