History of Hemp in India
When it comes to hemp or any other cannabis, we usually never relate it with Indian culture. The cannabis family is always classified as a “Drug from the west”. But they do, however, have a long history together. Hemp has been used in the Indian Ayurvedic discipline for thousands of years. Despite its medicinal and industrial benefits, many regulations were imposed on hemp production and consumption in India. Even laws were made to criminalize the use of hemp in the country. But, fortunately, India is now witnessing a revolutionary beginning in hemp usage.
What is Hemp?
Cannabis sativa L, popularly known as hemp, is a member of the cannabis family. It is considered a wonder crop because every part of the plant including flower, stem, and seed can be used. But this plant is often confused with marijuana; a member of the same family. Marijuana has a THC content of up to 20%, while hemp has a THC content of less than 0.3 %, excluding it from the list of psychedelic substances.
Hemp is always grown for a variety of things such as fabrics, meals, ropes, medications, and so on.
They are also thought to be the most sustainable raw material. They do not require special care, pesticides, fertilizers, or a lot of water because they are classified as weeds. They grow on their own, utilizing the resources available. It also absorbs a notable amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and releases plenty of Oxygen.
Hemp in India
According to historians, central Asia and Indian subcontinents including the Himalayan ranges from Kashmir to Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar are considered to be the native land of cannabis.
The archaeologists have discovered that in 8000 BC, China, Japan, and Taiwan used hemp to produce various products like clothes.
But when we look into the history of India, the use of hemp can be traced back to 3400 years from now, to the origin of Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the Indian medical discipline which promotes a healthy lifestyle and herbal medicinal practices, used hemp extensively to cure various health problems. Hemp is considered one of the five sacred plants mentioned in Vedas. Hemp was also used in the traditional production of clothes and fibers in traditional India.
Hemp was always misunderstood as a psychotic drug just because it belongs to the cannabis family. In 1894, during the colonial rule, The British government conducted a comprehensive study on cannabis growth in India and came up with certain laws and regulations regarding this.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (1894-1895) began regulating the use and processing of cannabis in India. Various Indian states passed laws repressing and criminalizing hemp growth in India, as well as the processing and consumption of cannabis products.
The International Opium Convention, signed in The Hague in 1925, banned the exportation of "Indian hemp" to countries that had banned its usage.
After the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), India passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act), which regulates the cultivation, production, sale, transportation, possession, and use of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and other manufactured drugs.
The hemp plant has been severely stigmatized as a result of this regulatory structure.
In 2015, a movement to legalize hemp farming began. Many countries started legalizing cannabis. Fortunately, the NDPS Act allows individual states in India to regulate hemp growth as long as they have the infrastructure in place to ensure that the THC concentration is less than 0.3 %.
Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh is the initial state to legalize hemp farming. Other states, including Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur, are also going to open up for hemp production.
Hemp businesses in India currently rely on raw hemp imports from Europe, North America, and China. Raw hemp can be imported with no limitations as long as it follows India's criteria.
Many young entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative ideas by taking advantage of the wide benefits of hemp. They have introduced hemp cloths, hemp medicines, hemp superfoods, hemp, hemp self-care products, etc, and have started to conquer the market.
Not only the entrepreneur but legendary Indian industrialists like Ratan Tata have also noticed the possibilities in this ‘future crop’ and have invested in the manufacturing of hemp products.
Some Indian hemp brands include; the Hemp Republic, Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), Namrata Hemp Company, Hempsters, Satliv, Vedi, and GreenJams.
There is now anticipation that industrial hemp farming may take off in India, allowing the country to supply its manufacturers as well as contribute to the global hemp market.
By Arjun Raghu