Indian state Madhya Paresh green lights cannabis cultivation

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The government of Madhya Paresh, India, has opted to legalize cultivation of cannabis for both industrial and medical uses, Minister of Law PC Sharma announced in the capital city of Bhopal.

The central Indian state will allow the free cultivation of hemp — a variety of cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC, the intoxicating compound in the cannabis plant — which was previously prohibited. The plants will be used for the development of medications to treat serious illnesses, such as cancer, as well as to create fibres for clothing and industrial fabrics.

The hemp will not be used for trading or consumption for the time being, Sharma said, noting that getting started would require help form international sources.

“Hemp is being cultivated in parts of the state, but not as a cannabis, but as a medicine. It belongs to cannabis sativa plant species, but is not cannabis,” Sharma said during a press conference. “It’ll be used to make cancer medicines. Cloth and  bio-plastic can also be manufactured with this,” he added.

The government, led by Chief Minister Kamal Nath-led, made clear that it is not legalizing the cultivation of “ganja”, aka high-THC cannabis in Hindi, which will remain prohibited in the state.

Madhya Paresh is not the first Indian state to legalize hemp cultivation. This past summer, Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to legalize commercial cultivation of a hemp crop, authorizing the non-profit Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) to grow over 1,000 hectares of the plant on a trial basis.

Although a policy was created nearly 35 years ago for non-intoxicating cannabis cultivation in India, procedures were never laid down for its cultivation and procurement, meaning the crop has never taken root in the country.

“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 realized that though the authorities are interested, they had little idea how to proceed on this,” Sharma told BusinessLine this summer.

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