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'Industrial cannabis' cultivation in India for the first time

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Sep 23, 2022 6:00 PM

Read Time: 2 minute

Six years after becoming the first state to allow large-scale industrial hemp cultivation (cannabis sativa, which has a low intoxication capacity and is primarily used for medicinal and industrial purposes), Uttarakhand has created the first prototype of "standardised industrial hemp."

According to Reena Joshi, district magistrate of Bageshwar, farmers in the border district have managed to grow industrial hemp with less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the permissible limit set by international laws and state parameters. "The Bageshwar district administration funded the project and the agriculture department closely guided the four farmers who were given license to cultivate industrial hemp on around 0.5-acre land here. Once the crop was grown, they were found to have less than 0.3% THC and thus qualified," Joshi said.

The two main phytochemicals found in cannabis are cannabidiol (CBD) and THC. Hemp is a subspecies related to marijuana (cannabis indica). However, unlike recreational marijuana, which contains approximately 20% THC and causes intoxication, it contains very little THC.

First time government gave permission for standardisation

"This is the first time in India that industrial-grade hemp has been grown as per government guidelines for standardisation. This strengthens the case for commercial cultivation of industrial hemp, and for the large-scale availability of seed, fibre and leaves of the cannabis plant to be used for industrial and horticultural uses," said Dr Brij 
Kishore Mishra, principal scientist and chief plant breeder at Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), a firm which collaborated with the state's agriculture department on the project.

Hemp is an environmentally friendly building material. Hempcrete (hemp construction blocks) is one of its industrial applications. Furthermore, hemp fibre can be used to make clothing, bags, and other items.

It is also found in medications for insomnia, eczema, headaches, neurological disorders, and heart disease. According to authorities, medicines made from it are in high demand in Western countries. "We yielded promising results with the help of experts at Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Lucknow and IIM Jammu. Cannabis has always been a part of the culture, daily lives and even livelihood of farmers in hills," Mishra added.

Hemp cultivation will prove boon for hills

Experts and social workers who have long worked with hemp in the hills have welcomed the news, saying the new opportunities will boost the economy in the hills, where difficult terrain and scarcity of water prevent the production of traditional crops like cotton. Jagadamba Prasad Maithani, founder of Alaknanda Ghati Shilpi Federation (AAGAAS), a community of self-help groups told, "Hemp cultivation will prove a boon for the hills. Wild animals stay away from the crop and the economic benefits might arrest migration. Not to mention, a hectare of hemp absorbs 100 tonnes of carbon, so it helps the environment too." While the cultivation has been successfully completed in Uttarakhand, the process is underway in some other states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, etc, that allow farmers to grow hemp.

Also Read: Karimnagar DCCB to Increase Oil Palm Plantation

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