India Has Issued Its First-Ever License to Grow Medical Cannabis
Legalization of cannabis has been a hot topic in India in recent weeks. Some weeks ago, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi famously stated her support for legalization. Since then, the topic has hardly been out of the news – and now, India has finally taken a decisive step towards legalization.
Last week, the government of India issued the first-ever license to grow medicinal cannabis for research purposes. The official license-holder is the Council of Scientific and Medical Research (CSIR). The council will work in collaboration with a Mumbai-based firm, the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).
BOHECO and CSIR have already spent two years collecting over a hundred different accessions of cannabis from various parts of India. They now intend to grow twenty of these varieties and research their potential medicinal benefits, before ultimately developing cannabis-based drugs from them. The cannabis will be grown in Jammu and Kashmir, in the far north of India.
BOHECO and CSIR
No Good News For Cannabis Recreational Users
This development may offer some potential hope to medicinal users, but the rights of recreational users will not be addressed or ameliorated in any way. Indeed, BOHECO co-founder Avnish Pandya pointedly distanced the company from recreational use:
“India is going to adopt a different model from the US, where we are going to look at it from a health perspective first, and not mix it with the recreational side of the plant.”
He added, “It won’t be raw cannabis; it will be an actual product in the form of extracts, pills, and patches.”
CBD To Be A Priority in India
Dr. Vishwakarma of CSIR further stated that one of the primary goals of the project was to select a variety of high-CBD cannabis:
“All drugs obtained from this plant have an important medical ingredient called cannabidiol, but the plant itself has been banned because of another component, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The research that has been coming out of the USA and Europe in the last decade confirms that most of the pharmaceutical activity comes from CBD, while the habit-forming and psychoactive activity comes from THC.”
Of course, CBD is highly medicinally active in its own right (although it’s not present in “all drugs obtained from this plant” – a somewhat meaningless statement). However, the erroneous idea that THC has no medicinal value and only leads to addiction is spreading alarmingly quickly, and could slow down true legalization for decades.
Another Incomplete Effort?
While BOHECO seem to be well-intentioned, there are various criticisms surrounding the development. There is already a substantial basis in the scientific literature indicating the usefulness of cannabis compounds in medicine, including THC.
Many activists feel that this research project will focus too much on CBD and exclude THC, thereby still depriving patients of full, legal access to whole-plant medicinal cannabis.
Priya Mishra, an independent activist formerly associated with the Great Legalization Movement of India, stated: “It’s a great step for the government to finally acknowledge the plant and set up a committee along with issuing the first license for medicinal research. But it also means we’re going almost a decade back globally.”
She continued, “More than twenty countries have already done the research and legalized for medicinal purposes. This research will take a minimum of 6-12 months to show meaningful results, while a huge number of patients will continue to suffer without access.”