Is India Moving Towards Legalising Medical Marijuana?

You can’t deny that India has some serious history with cannabis/marijuana/weed/pot/ganja/bhang (whatever you want to call it). With its traditional ayurvedic roots and the babas smoking it up, medicinal use of marijuana is not news for us.

Shiv ji ki bhang toh humaare culture mein hai (Lord Shiva’s bhang is part of India’s culture),” Member of Parliament Dr Dharamvira Gandhi said at a conference to promote use of cannabis-based medicines held on Friday.

The conference titled “Cannabis R&D in India: A Scientific, Medical and Legal Perspective” had experts call for “liberal regulatory regime for cannabis-based medicine in India.” In simpler words, they hinted at wanting legalisation of medical marijuana.

Also Read: Medical Marijuana: Here’s How Pot May Help

The conference was held on Friday in Delhi.

The conference was jointly hosted by Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) along with other stakeholders.

CSIR-IIIM is the first institute to get an official license to cultivate cannabis plant. In partnership with BOHECO, they grow the plant in Jammu within the present framework.

CSIR as well as institutes like Tata Memorial Centre are carrying out research and development on the medicinal use of cannabis for treating diseases like cancer, epilepsy and sickle cell anaemia.

Medicinal properties of marijuana have for long been advocated now. World over, countries are waking up to the medical benefits of marijuana. 29 out of 50 states in the US have made it legal in some form.

However, only recently there have been significant steps taken towards using it commercially.

"There is no other plant on earth which is endowed with so many great properties. USFDA has approved three life-saving drugs for serious ailments like epilepsy. The revolution in America has happened, it needs to happen here as well." - Dr Ram Vishwakarma, Director, CSIR-IIIM

Also present at the event were Patiala MP Dr Gandhi and Minister of State for PMO Dr Jitendra Singh.

While Dr Gandhi strongly advocated legalising marijuana, Dr Singh was quick to warn against misuse in the same breath as promoting the use for medicinal purposes.

"You can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. The kind of focus this is getting is necessary and the drug will come handy. But we have to guard against misuse and abuse. It’s our responsibility to draw the line between use, misuse and abuse." - Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS

Dr Gandhi has proposed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in the Parliament to promote its use for these purposes.

Marijuana for Medicinal Purposes "Though cannabis is a psychoactive drug and causes intoxication, its addictive potential is lower than that of tobacco, alcohol, heroin, cocaine etc. In fact, the cannabis plant and its commonly used forms like ganja, bhang, charas contain many chemicals which are not psychoactive but have medicinal and therapeutic capabilities. " - Dr Vivek Benegal, Professor, Centre for Addiction Medicine, NIMHANS

Some early studies have explored the beneficial effects of Cannabidiol, one such chemical, on persons addicted to opioids like heroin, alcohol and even tobacco. This chemical can have useful applications in the treatment of addictive disorders.

“But testing for this is difficult due to its current ambiguous position under the law in India, especially the NDPS Act,” adds Dr Benegal.

Chronic diseases are on the rise in India and BOHECO co-founder Jahan Peston Jamas says that existing medical solutions are not proving adequate. “In this scenario, cannabis-based medicines can offer a high-quality, cost-effective solution for patient populations across urban and rural India.”

Last year, Indian CMCG giant Patanjali had declared that it is exploring the medical benefits of cannabis in this labs.

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