Cannabis cultivation is now legal in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand will be the first State in the country to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crop, a rich source of high-quality fibre and a host of medicinal and nutritive products. The State government, earlier this month, 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.
“We will commence cultivation of non-narcotic hemp soon with the initial focus on creating a seed bank. The cultivation will be taken up in villages in Pauri Garhwal region,”
-Rohit Sharma, Founder-President, IIHA.
Even though the policy to allow cultivation of non-narcotic cannabis was formulated in 1985 along with opium, hemp cultivation failed to take off in the country as proper procedures were not laid down for its cultivation, procurement and use, unlike that in the case of legal opium, said Sharma.
“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 realised that though the authorities are interested, they had little idea how to proceed on this,” Sharma told BusinessLine.
IIHA subsequently was able to convince the then Congress government in Uttarakhand to come out with a policy for hemp cultivation, which was adopted by the subsequent BJP government with some changes.Hemp, a high-value crop, is ideal for a State like Uttarakhand where topology and acute water scarcity come in the way of growing conventional crops. Besides, destruction of crops by wild animals is quite rampant in Uttarakhand, said Sharma, who has been lobbying for the industrial hemp production in India since 2008.
Hemp, which can be harvested in three months, requires very little water and in places where water is abundant two crops can be grown, he said.
Currently, the authorities have given permission to cultivate hemp for fibre, which will find its use in textile industry. While its seeds and flowers are of immense value in medical and food-processing industry, the government is yet to legalise its use in the country.
IIHA, which has been given permission to cultivate hemp for a period of five years, hopes that it can cover an area of 10,000 hectares, even though the State government has more ambitious target of growing it over 1,00,000 hectares. While the total economic value of hemp cultivation (each crop) could be ₹3.75 lakh per hectare, farmers may not be able to realise the maximum value as the procurement of seeds and flowers is yet to be permitted. Both hemp seed oil and hemp protein powder, made from the leftover cake which is rich in digestible proteins, are popular world over, Sharma said.