The Himachal Pradesh High Court has sought to know the response of the Centre as well as the State government on a PIL against the State’s policy of total prohibition and burning of cannabis plant and calling for sustainable living with ‘hemp’ by tapping its industrial and medicinal potentials and promoting the modified cannabis with diminished psychoactive effect.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel sought the response within four weeks while impleading the Centre through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as a party.
The PIL has been filed by advocate Deshinder Khanna against the Himachal Pradesh government’s total prohibition on cultivation of cannabis and burning of crops in the state.
Khanna said the PIL has been filed for the benefit of farmers, villagers living in remote areas, the children and youth who are affected by drug abuse and also the patients of cancer and other diseases who have a right to health under Article 21 and who can be cured and relieved by the use of compounds like CBD in the cannabis plant.
Arguing against the State’s policy of burning the cannabis crop, the petitioner has suggested ways to free it from the clutches of drug mafia by reducing the content of THC in the plant and make it available for industrial use which will aid rapid economic growth and check menace of unemployment in rural areas.
He also highlighted how cannabis oil can help in curing cancer without any side-effects unlike what chemotherapy does to cancer patients. He also listed other diseases such as lung ailments, epileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, bowel disorder, arthritis etc which cannabis plant can cure.
The PIL says banning cannabis is also violative of right to preserve cultural identity since it is revered in many cultures and is associated with Lord Shiva with religious sanction among Hindus and is harmless if consumed in moderation.
“…reducing the content of THC (0.3 to 1.5 %) (which is required for industrial hemp) in the plant and providing such modified seeds, will make the plant unusable by the drug users as it diminishes the psychoactive effect of the drug. Secondly the plant becomes a huge industrial resource and also can be used for treating serious medical ailments. It has to be understood that the present policy of burning the cannabis plant not only causes environmental pollution, but also causes a great loss to bio-diversity and the eco-system, the plant is also essential for maintaining the richness of the soil cover.
“It is also to be noted that cannabis plant is being grown world over to reduce radiation effects in areas where nuclear disasters have happened because of its properties to soak up radiation. The plant acts as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide”.
Khanna said, “… after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1996, industrial hemp was planted for the purpose of removing contaminants near the Chernobyl site in 1998. Reports suggest the plant is also being used in Fukushima now. Scientists say hemp has the potential for cleaning up toxic metals, pesticides, gasoline, and explosives. Countries like China and Canada have begun to see industrial hemp’s importance. But India is still reluctant to take the industry seriously”.
The petitioner also relied on Textile Ministry’s Natural Fibre Policy, 2010, which identified hemp fibre along with banana fibre, pineapple fibre, flax, sisal, and nettle and recommended special policies for its development as a natural fibre which has a million dollar market globally.
He also submitted how Uttarakhand, which has a tradition of growing hemp, has been declared a nodal state for nettle and hemp promotion by the ministry.
The PIL said the State’s “drive to burn the plant has caused the damage coupled with huge loss of public funds. The result of this activity has not produced any favourable outcomes as the plant is grass/weed and it regrows in the forest in short interval”.
“By keeping medical and industrial uses of marijuana prohibited, we have only allowed drug mafia to make lot of money and they have targeted children around the state and made them into drug users. It is almost unfeasible to implement legislation without taking into account the existing socio-economic and cultural realities. Industrial and Medical Hemp/Cannabis definitely has the potential in adding to the state’s exchequer (as tax money) and substitute apple as the major cash crop. Legalization of medical and industrial use of Marijuana would make the state more progressive, reduce expenditure of the narcotic agencies and create livelihood for unemployed people in the state,” it said.
“Based on scientific data, writ petitioner points out that perhaps if the Executive were to rationally formulate a policy and also effectively implement the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, also with the genetic modification of the plants of cannabis, not only there would be rapid economic growth checking problem of unemployment in the rural areas, but would also reduce pollution. In fact, larger public interest would be served with the use of extract of the genetically modified plants for health purposes,” the bench noted.
“The end product of the cannabis plants, which thus far, rather notoriously, has been used as a psychotropic substance, with proper regulation, sensitization and awareness, can be used for advancement of industrial economic growth and betterment of life of such of those persons, who in particular are suffering from cancer and neurological disorder.
“Perhaps, it is in this backdrop that the Central Government has also made an endeavour to formulate a policy, which is commonly known as the National Fiber Policy, 2010. The writ petitioner also points out the extensive research, so carried out by him, indicating the change in the trend, throughout the world, of putting the end product of a genetically modified plant, for medicine use,” the court noted before impleading the Centre as a party to the matter, which is now listed for March 12.