Weed in our sacred scriptures? This has to be a joke, right?
Well, it might come as a surprise to many but according to the ancient Vedas texts and other religious scholars, cannabis has been described as “one of the 5 most sacred plants.” Cannabis or ‘Ganja’, as the locals call it, has been a part of India’s religious rituals and festivities for millenia. Even the ancient Indian ayurvedic practices have used cannabis as an active ingredient in medicines, ranging from digestion problems to blood pressure. Maybe all you need for your hypertension is some weed, who knows?
We all know, Manali has the best quality but the plant grows wild throughout India in the foothills of Himalaya and the adjoining plains, from Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east. This abundance of cannabis in India is actually an opportunity to harness the plant for economic growth, and trust me, we need anything that works well from the economy right now!
Despite the long usage of cannabis in ancient India, it is misunderstood legally and industrially. Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985, trade and consumption of both cannabis resin (charas) and the bud (ganja), are illegal and anyone found with them could face up to 20 years imprisonment. There also lies a strict ban on cannabis (even hemp) production in India.
How about hemp? Here’s a silver lining, a start. Recently, the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand government gave a go ahead to give hemp cultivation licenses. The Indian cannabis market has gathered significant attention recently, with various activists/NGOs filing court petitions demanding legalization of cannabis. They argue that the medicinal benefits of cannabis are hard to ignore, and the ideal climatic conditions for cannabis cultivation have the potential to boost the Indian economy and create millions of jobs.
Today, marijuana and hemp have been rediscovered by the West, as its myriad applications range from bio-fuel to even treatment of some forms of cancer! Despite the international treaty, American industry spearheads the movement for legalization and also has a lion’s share of the global legal marijuana and hemp profits. They also possess the largest repositories of plant genetic resources (PGR) of cannabis, including Indica varieties, and patenting new products based on PGR from around the world and then selling finished products back to those countries.
As per WHO, cannabis is by far the world’s most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug. Around 2.5% of world population which is about 147 million people consume cannabis and in a 2018 report, Deloitte called the marijuana sector a “sophisticated industry that will create new jobs new opportunities for businesses and new revenues for the government”
As the legalization and research grows, the marijuana market in the future may be over a trillion dollar high. To put this in context, a 2018 study by ABCD and Seedo found that if the government taxed weed the way they tax cigarettes, metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai could see an additional annual tax revenue of over $101.2 million (approx Rs 725 crore) and $89.38 million (Rs 641 crores) respectively!
Given our vast pool of genetic resources, the public or even the private sector should be encouraged to harness this gift of nature and who knows, maybe even become a part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat by another wave of patents and foreign corporatization of Indian resources.
What do you think, about time to join forces for the economy, just do you can smoke that green stash legally?