Note: This post does not promote nor discourage the use of ‘recreational’ cannabis in any way. The aim of this post is as always, to educate and inform.
Cannabis has been an integral part of India’s ancient medical system, the Ayurveda, although it also makes a reference to its recreational aspect, classifying it as ‘sub-poisonous’, which means its asking people to use it responsibly, because just like all the vices out there in the civilized world, from sugary diets and junk food to alcohol, opioid drugs and tobacco, the excessive use of any substance in life is not advised, for simply being a case of ‘too much’.
Depending on the user’s biochemistry, we hope the user is ‘mature’ enough to know and understand when his or her cannabis usage is becoming too much to be classified as a case of dependency or addiction. However, that being said, we ought not to ignore its medical applications to deliver it to the patients who need it the most and healthy people ought not to deliver a biased verdict when deserving patients ask for it by making their case heard.
With regards to India, its medicinal usage is definitely the first step that central and state governments need to focus on. Below are the five reasons why 2020 could be India’s year of reckoning for cannabis:
A. United Nations and The World Health Organisation
Since many Indians have been living under a rock for good reasons – your paychecks, food, water, air, internet, electricity and political news to name a few – it is prudent to bring to attention the fact that the WHO has been researching the medicinal and scientific benefits of cannabis since 2016 and surprise, surprise, the results have been ‘good’ enough to convince the representatives to ‘think’ about removing cannabis from the Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic drugs. This 1961 UN convention is the only mechanism to remove cannabis from the same group as cocaine, heroin and other god-forsaken drugs and clear the way for the Indian Central Government, the exact same process that led to cannabis being criminalized in India in the first place. Only this time, the process is for legalization of the illegalization.
The WHO’s recommendations cannot come into force by themselves. They have to be voted into by a majority of the 53 countries who’ll meet in March, 2020 as part of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and India is one among them. Can we vouch for a ‘yes’ by the Indian representative who’ll be a part of the CND? We hope he or she will read this post. Rather, we hope he or she is listening to the correct cannabis literature.
B. Indian Ayurveda and the Ministry of AYUSH
Globally, there has been a conscious shift and you can almost sense it. A move away from industrial, mass manufactured consumer products that are carbon positive towards chemical-free, natural, sustainably made plant-based consumer products focused on food, beverages, skincare and beauty.
India’s ancient system of Ayurveda advocates the oneness of human beings with plants and nature. This realization has overlaps with the pharmaceutical industry as well, with many medical practitioners advocating the convergence of modern scientific medicine and Ayurveda, which is personalized in nature, just another way of saying that Ayurveda has many takers across the world provided India, the pioneers of it, scientifically validates it.
The Ministry of AYUSH, to their credit is at the forefront of this. Not only have they partnered with international health agencies including the WHO to raise awareness about the significance of Ayurveda in medicine but also hosted official WHO meetings and conferences to claim Ayurveda’s benefits for people consumed by the excesses of the modern, industrial age.
The Ministry of AYUSH needs to realize the significance of the March, 2020 vote and exert the fact to WHO that cannabis has been an integral part of Ayurveda and WHO’s own cannabis based research validates it. This fact must be communicated to other countries who will be voting as well.
C. Delhi High Court Hearing
On February 6, 2020, the Delhi High Court will commence the hearing filed through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by Viki Vaurora – who established the Great Legalization Movement India Trust – to challenge the Indian Central Government with regards to the the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the National Drugs and Psychotropics (NDPS) Act enacted in 1985 under pressure, ironically from the UN (read USA – sense the irony due to the previous points in the post)
The Centre needs to respond to the claims, as to how the act was enacted in merely 4 days of debate (thank you again, USA), how Bhang, a drink consumed on religious occasions, made from the extracts of the cannabis leaf is legal is some states of India (cannabis being a state subject) when the possession, cultivation and consumption of cannabis is illegal as per the NDPS Act, and last but not the least, how on earth was the plant’s relevance in Ayurvedic medicine ignored?
D. The Great States of India
- In 2018, Uttarakhand became the first Indian state to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp, although is it not clear how the legislation has been made. According to sources, the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) obtained a license to cultivate hemp over 1000 acres.
- In 2019, Madhya Pradesh expressed their intention to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes, although it is not clear when the law would pass and how the legislation is to be written.
- In 2019, the Narcotics Department under the revenue wing of the Union Finance Ministry supposedly began to conduct research on the two dominant compounds found in the cannabis plant: CBD and THC.
- In 2019 again (what a good year for cannabis in India), Manipur Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh expressed how the Manipur cabinet would consider legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes and allow start-ups into the cannabis ecosystem provided they show the potential.
We hope 2020 would be the year when legislations would be clearly worded and communicated to the public at large, that cannabis is medicine.
E. The Opioid Crisis in India
American Pharma is coming for India’s patients and their playbook is the same as the one followed in USA – Government lobbying to include opioid drugs under the list of ‘essential drugs’ under the NDPS Act, a media campaign mounted to persuade the public of the use of opioid drugs as being safe and harmless , and lastly, flooding the market with opioid drugs for the scores of Indian patients suffering from lifestyle diseases, acute and chronic pain including cancers.
The Indian government needs to understand that this crisis, already underway, can be solved, and the answer lies in its own backyard – Ayurveda and medical cannabis. All we ask is this, don’t believe us, believe the science. Don’t believe the culture and the tradition, believe the science. Science will prove the efficacy of medical cannabis and then let the patients decide if they want to continue with opioid drugs or switch to medical cannabis.
May 2020 be the year of Indian cannabis.