April 20 is observed as Cannabis Day, an international observance to celebrate the potential of medical cannabis and cannabis culture at large. It is a day people across the globe gather to advocate the liberalization and legalization of cannabis. Over time, this day has become a noteworthy occasion for cannabis enthusiasts to come together in support of legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes. What began with protests and activism eventually turned into a day of celebration for those who wanted to promote medical cannabis.
There is a growing consensus globally today that the harmful effects of cannabis are exaggerated. This has forced governments worldwide to take a more progressive and liberal stance on cannabis. It is high time India follows suit and reconsiders its stance on cannabis-based wellness products, as economies all over the world increasingly shift their focus to medical cannabis. With a paradigm shift noticed on cannabis usage, some countries are even decriminalizing its usage and legalizing the recreational use of cannabis!
In India, the cannabis sector and the entire commercial ecosystem around cannabis as of date is being regulated majorly by the Narcotic Drus and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, which prohibits the sale and production of cannabis plant-based resin and flowers; however it allows the usage of cannabis seeds and leaves as well as medical cannabis products.
The million-dollar question that we need to ask is: is it time for India to take a progressive step by reforming its policies on cannabis?
Health and economic benefits
First off, we need to understand that the cannabis plant offers numerous health benefits. One of the most commonly used products that have become extremely popular in recent times is Cannabidiol (CBD) – a compound derived from cannabis. CBD-based oils and supplements are nowadays becoming popular worldwide to treat myriad health and lifestyle ailments.
With extensive research, scientists have found that CBD has superlative pain-relieving effects. CBD may help reduce chronic pain by affecting our endocannabinoid receptor activity, which is involved in regulating a variety of human functions, including pain sensation, sleep, and appetite, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters.
CBD also has neuroprotective properties, and therefore it can be an effective treatment or supplement in managing anxiety, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A few studies have also shown that CBD may help ease some cancer-related symptoms and the side effects related to cancer treatment.
Furthermore, a recent study published in the Journal of
Natural Products by researchers affiliated with Oregon State University has indicated that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in the hemp varietals of cannabis -- Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGA) and Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA) -- have the ability to deter the SARS-CoV-2 infection and prevent the virus from entering body cells!
It is quite evident that cannabis and/or CBD-based products -- especially CBD oil -- can be used to help treat or manage a wide variety of physiological and psychological symptoms. But the prevailing myths and false beliefs around cannabis often hinder people from taking reaping the full benefits of CBD or cannabis wellness.
Keeping this in mind, a policy level reform, if and when rolled out by the Government, should be able to encourage more private players to make cannabis-derived wellness products in India, giving people better access to these products. Moreover, it will catalyze more research and findings on the not-yet-discovered health benefits of cannabis. A progressive outlook when it comes to cannabis can help to expand the market and cater to people at scale.
The way forward
We are at the cusp of the wellness revolution in India. And to accelerate it, putting in place progressive policy reforms around cannabis wellness products is no longer an option, but a necessity. The current laws and regulations are outdated and don't take into account the latest research and development (R&D) and the numerous health benefits of CBD.
The way forward is a complete overhaul of policies and regulations related to the cannabis sector, while taking into account all the aspects and recent R&D on the immense health benefits of cannabis-derived products. It will serve well to remember that today our nation is sitting on a goldmine of opportunities for farmers, manufacturers, and home-grown brands to rapidly expand the cannabis wellness industry in the coming years; and to that end, government and policy support is crucial. The cannabis sector’s stakeholders must also work collaboratively to make sure that these opportunities are realized to the fullest.
(Richa Jaggi is co-founder and chief marketing officer, Awshad, a Cannabis wellness start-up)
Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.