The Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed the State Government to take a decision on the licensing of cultivation of medicinal and industrial cannabis.
The order was passed by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Surya Kant and Sandeep Sharma, while considering a plea by Advocate Deven Khanna for allowing non-narcotic use of cannabis in Himachal Pradesh.
The petitioner produced a DVD with voluminous records to highlight the beneficial usages of hemp. The Court on April 29 directed the Government to look into the materials and take a decision within 8 weeks.
The petitioner states that cannabis plants have several properties, which could be utilized for therapeutic and commercial purposes. Although the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act permit licensed cultivation of hemp plant for medicinal and industrial purposes, the State Government has not evolved a sound policy for that. Hemp cultivation for non-narcotic purposes has failed to take off as proper procedures were not laid down for its cultivation, procurement and use.
"The Section 10 of the said Act bestows the state governments the power to decide the limits within which licenses can granted for its cultivation. Unfortunately, Himachal Pradesh never used the provision, and did not formulate any regulation or rules to facilitate the medical or industrial use of the plant", states the petition.
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 persons suffering from several health issues, such as cancer and neurological disorder, submitted Khanna in Court.
The petition argues that the hemp grows naturally in almost every part of the hill state without much care that the other crops require. It requires 400 times less water than other crops and requires almost negligible herbicides, pesticides, manure, and protection from wild animals. Therefore, encouraging its cultivation can give a boost to village economy, he points out.
If the THC(Tetrahydrocannabinol) content in the plant is reduced through genetically modified seeds, its psychotropic effects could be diminished and the hemp products could be put for benign healing purposes and commercial use.
Apart from medicinal values, hemp has industrial usages. Hemp fibre can be used for textiles, plastic, paper and glass industry, highlights the petition. 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.
Asserting that the issue is also related to protection of traditional rights of villagers who have been using hemp products for healing purposes since time immemorial, the petition states that Constitution does not allow imposition of one group's cultural and moral values over others. The petition invokes Article 29 of the Constitution in this context, which deals with fundamental right to protect and conserve culture of a group.
Global usage of medicinal marijuana
The petition extensively refers to various foreign legislations, which permit medicinal use of marijuana.
"There is a mountain of scientific evidence that demonstrates that medicinal cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for people suffering from a variety of debilitating medical conditions".
Indian research bodies such as Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Studies under AYUSH Ministry has announced positive results for use of cannabis as a restorative drug for cancer treatment.
Based on these, the petitioner seeks the directions of the court for formulating a policy for licensing the growth of commercial and medicinal hemp.
The petitioner demands that government should define industrial hemp (based on the percentage of THC) and authorize the cultivation and possession of industrial and medicinal hemp by creating an advisory board or commission.
In July 2018, the neighboring state of Uttarakhand licensed commercial cultivation of hemp crop and granted license to granted licence to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA), a non-profit organisation that promotes industrial application of hemp, to grow the fibre over 1,000 hectares, on a pilot basis.
Last September, the Constitutional Court of South Africa had decriminalised private, personal use of cannabis.