Cannabis is something that brings up many taboos in Indian society. A subject of intense debate globally, cannabis is finding increasing acceptance in the medical community, with global developments in terms of policy and society for accepting medicinal cannabis.
It is thoroughly ingrained in the Indian Ayurveda and Atharvaveda system, it is high time that there is a consensus about its huge medicinal potential in modern-day India.
Cannabis Versus Hemp
To justify the title and the content, it is pertinent that I start here. Cannabis and hemp are of the same species, but with different chemical components that make them. Cannabis has a large concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) and a low amount of Cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp is just the opposite, having high traces of CBD and a low concentration of THC.
While both seemingly look interchangeable, cannabis is used for recreational and medicinal uses while hemp is for medicinal and industrial uses.
CBD Oil Is A Thing
Late actor Irrfan Khan’s wife Sutapa Sikdar appealed to legalise CBD oil in India. This widens the socio-political scenario of using hemp as a treatment method in India. CBD oil is an extract from the cannabis plant.
The two main substances in it are cannabidiol and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. The high that is caused by the consumption of cannabis is due to THC. CBD, however, does not cause any form of intoxication. CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and then diluting it with another form of oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.
Cannabidiol affects the brain, preventing the breakdown of a chemical that aggravates the pain and affects mood and mental functions along with reduction of pain and anxiety. It also reduces psychotic symptoms associated with conditions such as schizophrenia as well as epilepsy.
History of Usage In India
According to sources and archaeological findings, cannabis was used for varying ailments as a treatment methodology. Besides medical usage, it was also used for cultural, religious and spiritual reasons. The earliest written reference to Cannabis in India occurs in the Atharvaveda, dating to about 1500 BCE.
This ancient document speaks of the ‘bhang’ plant as one of the five sacred plants and as a source of happiness, giver of joy, and bringer of freedom. “We tell of the five kingdoms of herbs headed by Soma; may it, and kusa grass, and bhang and barley, and the herb saha, release us from anxiety.”
It was also used as a common staple food as hemp seeds were common and nutritious. The usage of hemp was shunned in the 20th century. This happened not only in India but worldwide. The main reason was the usage of cannabis as a narcotic.
With the advent of opiates, there was a significant shift in modern-day medicine and clinical research based on treatments and ailments that were not cannabis. In recent times, it has come to light that opiates may be more dangerous than initially believed while cannabis turns out to be more medicinally useful than believed.
Growth In Modern India
India’s primary fiasco is the stigma that prevails around the usage of cannabis in general. Therefore the first step is to break the stigma by making the treatment method available to severely ill patients and then open it up to the market at large for milder treatments.
It is legalised in a few countries by a combination of limiting sellers, quality control, prescription-only usage and as a last resort method. The latest studies show that the medical usage of cannabis can also shun the risk of getting infected by COVID-19 as well.
Modern-day medical usage is gathered by risk versus benefits profiling and ensuring the quality of the product. Along with the fact that India’s pharmaceutical industry is well developed and there are ample research facilities, the first modern medicinal usage of CBD could be as early as 1-2 years in the future. However, sufficient funding, easy access to permits and adequate interest have to be shown in the sector.
The United States has reached a point where there are 91 deaths per year due to opiates. If India can avoid this pitfall and realise the true medical potential of cannabis, it will yield better results and lesser deaths. Moreover, this opens up a newer market for medicinal drugs and can further boost our economy.
At the I-CARE summit in 2016, the Drug Controller General Of India said, “Yes, we want to have a lenient approach rather than a restrictive approach. You people will be thinking and working together and as a regulator and technocrat, we are with you, till you are scientifically going to prove that you will protect the people of this country.
We have already worked out the phytopharmaceutical path for new product development to be used for humanity and the people of this country. You can use that platform. I see huge potential in these kinds of alternative medicines in the treatment of patients and people.”
Since then, the government has provided licenses, albeit limited, to grow medically valuable marijuana in certain places and of course, with regulation.
On a more personal note, I would like to tell you readers that I will stop writing for ED Times for a while now, due to personal reasons. Hope you enjoyed the content that I brought along for the ride and maybe learnt something new every month.
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This post is tagged under: cannabis, hemp, marijuana, CBD oil, medical marijuana, usage of marijuana in India, growth of hemp treatments, legality of marijuana in India, history of hemp in India