APPLE PARADISE TURNS TOXIC: HIMACHAL GOES THE CANNABIS WAY

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APPLE PARADISE TURNS TOXIC: HIMACHAL GOES THE CANNABIS WAY While the world was busy celebrating India’s spectacular closing ceremony of the G 20 Presidentship, one state silently slipped into darkness. In Himachal Pradesh a committee comprising lawmakers that explored the possibility of legal cultivation of cannabis, recently recommended cultivation of cannabis for “non-narcotic use of cannabis for medicinal, industrial, and scientific use”.

The bigger fear is looming large. Will the state be  able to control its growth as per the permissions granted. Will it be efficient enough to not allow any slippage of the banned drug into the market.

What is the government stand on this decision?

Ironically, the government took the stand of supporting farmers. It said, allowing cannabis cultivation would also reaffirm the government’s commitment  to safeguarding the interests of the farmers, who have been long demanding to lift the ban on cultivation.

Those in favour of its cultivation point out that hemp has multiple uses ranging from phytoremediation, fibre-cloth manufacturing, medicinal use, and use in the pulp and paper industry.

Himachal has been an Apple paradise. The efforts should have been  directed towards cultivating export quality apples and giving all possible policy, financial and operational support to augment the income of the farmers.

A State to Worry for

We already have a State (Punjab) that has fallen to the evil designs of our neighbour in inculcating a culture of drug among the youth. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSC) of the early 1980s in the state of Punjab, forced many youths into the vicious network of drug and drug abuse. With great difficulty the nation could get back these Bravehearts on track. If you happen to travel to Punjab, one can spot drug rehab centres as a spanning business.

The Bollywood and the fan base of many pop stars the state has produced got their hands dirty in glorifying the drug culture. With Himachal close to Punjab, will it end up being another supplier of the banned drug. Many questions rise in the horizon.

With the Himachal Pradesh government taking steps to legalise cannabis (hemp) cultivation in the State, growers are upbeat and optimistic about getting an economic boost. Hemp is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use.

Himachal and its history of Cannabis

It is produced in parts of Himachal Pradesh, though it is illegal under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

The NDPS Act of 1985, imposes a ban on extracting the resin and flowers from the plant, but the law determines the method and extent of its cultivation for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Section 10 (a) (iii) of the Act empowers the States to make rules regarding the cultivation of any cannabis  plant,  production,  possession,  transport,  consumption, use and purchase and sale, and consumption of cannabis (except charas).

The States are empowered to permit, by general or special order, the cultivation of hemp only for obtaining fibre or seeds or for horticultural purposes.

Which is the First State to legalise cannabis cultivation ?

Uttarakhand was the first state to allow commercial cultivation of hemp in 2018, followed by Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. A few other states are allowing cannabis for industrial and medical purposes. As per an estimated about half of India’s 28 states are at some stage of considering legalization of cannabis cultivation.

What is prompting this trend ?

In countries around the world, cannabis is rapidly becoming a booming business: After long, futile attempts at prohibition, governments are finally realizing its medical and economic potential.

Countries where it is legal ?

Countries like Canada and South Africa have legalized cannabis for many uses, including recreational. Others, like most nations in Latin America, and parts of Australia have decriminalized it—cannabis isn’t legal, but the use and limited possession of it aren’t persecuted.

In the US, some states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, and others have decriminalized it.

Now Indian entrepreneurs, sensing boundless  opportunities,  are  pushing  for similar reforms and working with individual states to update old laws.

Using the US as a template, states have allowed for production of cannabis with a maximum of 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) (the  main  psychoactive compound in cannabis) content. This is controlled  cultivation  for  medicinal, scientific and industrial purpose.

Is Cannabis growing wildly in India ?

Yes. However, most of the cannabis growing wildly  in  India contains  higher  levels, and so far research, including several projects in partnership with the government, has focused on developing a hybrid that would be able to produce lower levels of THC irrespective of the environmental conditions it is being grown in.

Does it really have that medicinal value ?

The medicinal powers of cannabis, too, have been known to India for millennia. Its calming properties, for instance, are described in detail in the Vedas, and used in traditional medicine, or ayurveda.

The Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) allows licensed practitioners as well as medical doctors to prescribe cannabis extract. However, the fruit and flower of cannabis (ganja) remain illegal.

However, it must be administered in compounds including other elements, as cannabis by itself is classified as a toxic, though medically important, substance.

Conclusion

There are social concerns, especially of adolescents and youth being drawn towards the use and abuse of cannabis, the nexus between illegal producers and suppliers of cannabis getting stronger, the risk of pilferage, and the occurrence of amotivational syndrome.

The youth are already undergoing tremendous stress in matters related to education, job, health, managing relations etc. The easy availability of this drug shouldn’t open another pandoras box that cannot be shut without paying a heavy price for it.

We have seen how a country like Tibet, USSR paid a heavy price with institutionalised drug abuse targeting the youth for vested interests.

Jai Hind Credits

Major SPS Oberoi Academic Advisor

Ekam IAS Academy, Hyderabad

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