Medicinal Marijuana Can Boost Himachal’s Economy

Manali: Where the world grapples in coming to terms with the ongoing pandemic, a major shift happened on the world stage which was largely ignored by the Indian media.

In the 63rd Session of the UN Commission for National Drugs, in December 2020, India voted in favour of removing Cannabis from the list of most dangerous drugs.

Out of 53 member states, India voted (27 to 25) along with 26 other countries (with one absentee state, Ukraine) to remove Cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed along with deadly, addictive opioids like Heroin-which are discouraged from even being used for medicinal purposes.

WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence submitted in Jan 2019 that it did not find any evidence that the Cannabis plant and Cannabis Resin produced ill-effects similar to other substances in schedule IV. With the passage of this vote, Cannabis and Cannabis Resin has now been rescheduled “at a level of Control that will prevent harm caused by Cannabis use & at the same time will not act as a barrier to access and to research and development of Cannabis-related preparation for medical use”. However, the recreational use of Cannabis will continue to be strictly banned in India.

With the renewed debate about the legal status of Cannabis, Himachal Pradesh can gain immensely especially given its Cultural and Historical roots of hundreds of years. Himachal Pradesh could be the next “Cannabis Superpower” in the global US$5 Billion medical Cannabis market and capitalize on growing global demand.

Of course, at first glance, this seemed like a surprising prediction but, the explosive growth in the demand for Cannabis plants used in a wide range of medicinal usage and health products, Himachal Pradesh can capture a Lion’s share of business opportunities.

With these recent altering of Cannabis Laws in the world forum like the UN, Himachal can benefit the most with excellent climatic conditions which are congenial for the cultivation of Cannabis plants.

Experts say if farmers in Himachal are allowed to grow Cannabis, this could be an attractive source of Income. Instead of Illegal cultivation, legally produced Cannabis will prevent them from falling prey to the illegal drug market for quick money. They further said that the government can promote Research and Develop markets for Industrial and medicinal usage of Cannabis.

The government can authorize a State Licencing Authority to facilitate the Cultivation, Processing use of only Industrial and Medicinal usage of Cannabis, so that on one hand whereas the public could receive its commercial and medical benefits, the government on the other hand could generate revenue in terms of fees and taxes.

It’s high time for the government to seriously consider legalizing Cannabis through controlled cultivation so that like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have strengthened their rural economy after allowing selective cultivation of poppy.

Cannabis production will be a boon for patients suffering from diseases like cancer and AIDS. This was stated by Ram Lal Markanda, Technical Education Minister while speaking to Hill Post.

The minister said the government was in the process of formulating a policy for starting legal cultivation of cannabis in the state. He said that he had been to European countries to study cannabis cultivation and had suggested the government consider its legal cultivation. He said that medicines produced using cannabinoids had miraculous properties to provide relief to cancer and AIDS patients.

Markanda said the cannabis produced for medicinal purposes was different from wild cannabis. Medicinal produce of cannabis would enable the country to produce lifesaving drugs that were otherwise imported at a very high cost and were out of reach of the common man.

He said that legalized cultivation of cannabis would not only improve the economy of the state. He dismissed suggestions that this could encourage illegal production.

“Why would anyone go for illegal production when one would get a better cost for legal production”,  said Markanda.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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