April 20 marks Cannabis Day, an international celebration of the potential of medical cannabis and cannabis culture in general. It is a day when people from all over the world come together to advocate for the liberalization and legalization of cannabis. Over time, this day has become a remarkable occasion for cannabis enthusiasts to come together to support the legalization of the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. What started as protests and activism eventually turned into a celebration for those who wanted to promote medical cannabis.
There is now a growing consensus around the world that the harmful effects of cannabis are being exaggerated. This has forced governments around the world to take a more progressive and liberal stance on cannabis. It is high time India followed suit and reconsidered its stance on cannabis-based wellness products, as economies around the world increasingly focus on medicinal cannabis. Given the paradigm shift seen in cannabis use, some countries are even going so far as to decriminalize its use and legalize recreational use of cannabis!
In India, to date, the cannabis industry and the entire commercial cannabis ecosystem is mainly regulated by the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985, which prohibits the sale and production of resin and flowers. However, it allows the use of cannabis seeds and leaves, as well as medical cannabis products.
The million-dollar question we must ask ourselves is: Is it time for India to take a progressive step in reforming its cannabis policy?
Economic and health benefits
First, we must understand that the cannabis plant offers many health benefits. One of the most widely used products that has become very popular lately is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from cannabis. CBD oils and supplements are becoming increasingly popular around the world these days to treat a variety of health and lifestyle ailments.
Through extensive research, scientists have discovered that CBD has exceptional pain-relieving effects. CBD can help relieve chronic pain by affecting the activity of our endocannabinoid receptors, which are involved in the regulation of several human functions, including pain sensation, sleep, and appetite, reducing inflammation, and interacting with the neurotransmitters.
CBD also has neuroprotective properties, so it can be an effective treatment or adjunct for treating anxiety, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some studies have also shown that CBD can help reduce certain cancer-related symptoms and side effects associated with cancer treatment.
Furthermore, a study recently published in the Journal of Natural Products by researchers at Oregon State University reported that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in cannabis strains from hemp, cannabigerol acid (CBGA) and cannabidiol acid (CBDA), have the ability to recognize and prevent infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus from penetrating the cells of the body!
Obviously, cannabis and/or CBD products, especially CBD oil, can be used to treat or manage a variety of physiological and psychological symptoms. But the myths and misconceptions that are prevalent around cannabis often prevent people from realizing the full benefits of CBD or the well-being of cannabis.
With this in mind, policy-level reform, if and when implemented by the government, should be able to encourage more private actors to manufacture cannabis-derived wellness products in India, giving people better access to these products. In addition, it will stimulate more research and discoveries about the health benefits of cannabis that have not yet been discovered. A progressive outlook on cannabis can help expand the market and meet people’s needs on a large scale.
The way to follow
We are on the cusp of India’s wellness revolution. And to accelerate that, enacting progressive policy reforms around cannabis-based wellness products is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. Current laws and regulations are outdated and do not take into account the latest research and development (R&D) and the many health benefits of CBD.
The way forward is a complete review of the policies and regulations related to the cannabis sector, taking into account all aspects and the latest research and developments on the immense health benefits of cannabis-derived products. It will be good to remember that today our country is facing a plethora of opportunities for local growers, producers and brands to see the cannabis wellness industry grow rapidly in the coming years; and for this, government and political support is vital. Cannabis industry stakeholders must also work together to ensure these opportunities are maximized.