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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Will consider a policy for controlled cultivation of hemp: Himachal CM

“The quality of cannabis here is among the best in the world. While we are and will be against the consumption and sale of charas (the narcotic component), there is another aspect to the plant, which we need to look into,” Himachal CM Jai Ram Thakur said.

By: Express News Service | Shimla |
March 6, 2021 12:22:18 pm
Himachal cannabis cultivation CMA cannabis farm in Kullu. (Express Archives)

The Himachal Pradesh government will consider framing a policy for controlled cultivation of hemp to strengthen the state’s economy, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur Friday told the Vidhan Sabha.

“The quality of cannabis here is among the best in the world. While we are and will be against the consumption and sale of charas (the narcotic component), there is another aspect to the plant, which we need to look into,” he said, elaborating the use of cannabis in making food items, footwear, fabric and medicines.

In 1985, India banned the use of charas, the separated resin of the cannabis or hemp plant, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

Though the Act allows states to permit and regulate the cultivation and non-narcotic use of cannabis (excluding charas), it has effectively remained banned in the absence of an official policy. A few years ago, Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to legalise the commercial cultivation of the hemp crop.

The issue was raised in a private resolution moved by Jwalamukhi MLA Ramesh Chand Dhawala, an ardent advocate of herbs and medicinal plants.

He said that bhang, as cannabis is called in Himachal, has hundreds of chemical compounds and only one of them, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is psychoactive. Strains of cannabis having a low THC can easily be grown as is being done in polyhouses in neighbouring Uttarakhand, he said.

Calling cannabis a “Ram baan aushadhi”, Dhawala said that a single drop of oil obtained from hemp can boost immunity, cure innumerable diseases, prevent heart blockage, and reverse memory loss by activating dead cells.

In areas such as Mandi and Kullu, people had been traditionally using the plant to make clothes, footwear, ropes, nutritive products and medicines, he said, adding that it is now being used as furniture and timber in some foreign countries.

“Cannabis economy was worth Rs 3 crore in a village in Kullu until it got banned. A terror has been created surrounding its use and the police are often found cutting down fields of cannabis. Smugglers of charas dealing in commercial quantities should be arrested, but why are youngsters found with small quantities being imprisoned for years? Even the narcotic use of bhang is not as dangerous as alcohol. People die of drinking, but have you ever heard of someone dying of smoking bhang?” he asked.

Dhawala said that hemp cultivation will attract a lot of industry to the state and make it economically more self-reliant.

Several other MLAs in the House seconded Dhawala, following which the CM replied that it’s a crucial issue and he, too, had raised it back in 2004. “Earlier, our elders used to prepare several food items from cannabis, which were important for giving energy and warmth to the body in freezing winters. We have seen it in our homes,” he said.

Recounting the benefits of cannabis and the history of its ban in a three-page statement, he said, “If a concensus among all is reached, we will discuss this issue with an open mind.”

Thakur added that Uttarakhand and Gujarat have already made laws regulating the hemp crop while Madhya Pradesh and Manipur are mulling it ovr.

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