Hemp, also known as industrial cannabis, has a long standing relationship with India and it’s culture. From it’s mention in the ancient religious texts, the Vedas as one of the five sacred plants to it being the front runner in the legalisation movement till date, hemp has been a part of India’s history. One of the two primary species of cannabis- cannabis indica, traces the origin of it’s name to India. Hemp as a raw material can contribute in the production of 25,000 products, ranging from products in industries such as gas and oil, to textiles and bodycare.
With Himalayas and the state of Uttarakhand being a treasure trove of hemp and all other states in India betting on the quality of their respective hemp production, India is home to some of the best quality of hemp in the world. However, hemp in India is still not officially legal due to the stigmatization attached to the crop. The controversies revolving around it linking it to the controversial amount of THC and marijuana, have hindered its business growth, more than one can imagine.
Hemp in Indian states
Uttarakhand being the first Indian state to have secured the rights for industrial hemp cultivation in 2018, it was a marked victory in this long drawn battle of hemp legalisation. The state government of Uttarakhand also granted license to Indian Industrial Hemp Assosciation(IIHA) to establish and operate their non-profit organisation. Apart from the products that can be made using hemp, cultivation of industrial hemp is extremely eco friendly. It requires very little to no use of pesticides. Since India lies in the tropical region, temperature and environmental conditions of India are also suitable for hemp cultivation.
While the direct benefits of hemp cultivation will be extended towards poor famers, who otherwise had to spend a huge amount of money for the timely cultivation of the crop, the GDP share of agriculture sector will also see a rise. Hemp, being a stronger and more absorbent fibre than cotton, sustainable agriculture of hemp will take India a long way, who in fact is looking to diversify from its conventional methods of farming.
Followed by Uttarakhand, are states like Madhya Pradesh and Manipur, where ministers have come out stating the need for legalisation of cultivation of hemp. While Madhya Pradesh’s law minister had already made an announcement about allowing the cultivation of hemp for medical and industrial purposes, there has been no progress made following it. Chief Minister of Manipur on the other hand has taken a firm decision regarding this issue and mentioned that it is very important for the state to utilise it’s natural resources efficiently and use the revenue generated for the development of the state.
Growth map of hemp market
With the first cannabis clinic of India, Vedi Herbals, opening in Bangalore in February, 2020, established by an Odisha based startup HempCann Solutions, it is a win for the cannabis legalisation movement. With Vedi Herbals having been granted a pan India license, it remains to be seen how this would pave way for expansion of hemp market in India.
Apart from the newbie HempCann solutions, there are other companies such as Bombay Hemp Company(BoHeCo), Indian Hemp and Co., B.E.Hemp, that have somehow managed to sustain the idea of medicinal and industrial hemp thriving in India.
HempStreet, established in 2019, is another newbie in the hemp market and is India’s first research to retail venture in the ayurvedic cannabis sector. Having received a funding of 1 million dollars from US based pharmatech, Pharmacon Holdings and Romain Barberis, HempStreet primarily focuses on medicinal hemp and aims to source hemp based painkillers in the hemp market. These facts paint a picture of that of how hemp in India, as a market would experience a notable shift in the coming years.
Despite of being illegal, a study conducted by All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) in 2019 reported that there are 7.2 million consumers of industrial hemp within that year. This implies that hemp in India, already has an established consumer base. The need of the hour, is to lend wings to this miraculously healing and industrial crop, such that it’s benefits reach the less privileged and provide relief to those who need it.