Uttarakhand may become the first Indian state to allow cannabis cultivation as the state government has granted licence to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) to grow the fibre over 1,000 hectares on a pilot basis.
Non-profit organisation IIHA, which promotes industrial application of hemp, would use the crop in the textile industry.
"We will commence cultivation of non-narcotic hemp soon with the initial focus on creating a seed bank. The cultivation will be taken up in villages in Pauri Garhwal region," Rohit Sharma, IIHA founder-president told Business Line.
IIHA has been given the permission to cultivate hemp for a period of five years, in a bid to cover an area of 10,000 hectares. The state government, however, has an ambitious target of growing it over 1,00,000 hectares, the report said.
According to the report, the total economic value of hemp cultivation (each crop) could be Rs 3.75 lakh per hectare. The maximum value, however, remains unknown as procurement of seeds and flowers is yet to be permitted.
India had formulated a policy to allow cultivation of non-narcotic cannabis in 1985 but the policy remained unimplemented as the country did not lay down proper procedures for its cultivation, said Sharma, who has been lobbying for industrial hemp production in India since 2008.
"About five years ago, when we started working on industrial hemp, we tried to figure out why India is not tapping on this $1-trillion industry unlike advanced economies in Europe and North America and even China. We then realised that though the authorities are interested, they had little idea how to proceed on this," Sharma told the paper.
The Congress government had earlier given its approval to IIHA, which was adopted by the subsequent NDA government with some changes.
Uttarakhand has an ideal topology for hemp cultivation as it requires very little water and can be harvested in three months.
Cannabis' seeds and flowers are considered valuable in medical and food-processing industry, but its use is illegal in the country. Sharma added that hemp seed oil and protein powder are popular around the world.