A marijuana (cannabis) research firm in India has raised funds worth 6.25 crore from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, and Rajan Anandan, Google India Vice President and Managing Director, according to a report in The Economic Times. The ‘Bombay Hemp Company’ (BOHECO), which received seed funding from a group of investors including Tata and Anandan, will be collaborating with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which received a license to research the medical properties of cannabis in August this year. Indus Dictum carried a full report at the time.
“We intend to study and develop medical properties of cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy and chemotherapy induced side-effects,” the Director of R&D at BOHECO, Avnish Pandya, had said in August. “Marijuana is still classified as a narcotic. Depending on the decision of the Drugs Controller General of India, we may even skip the initial research phases and begin with human trials.” The Economic Times report mentions a similar theme.
Cannabis and it’s consumption in any form remains illegal in India, according to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. Punishments for the crime range from rehabilitation to prison sentences of 20 years – apart from monetary penalties – depending on the severity of the crime.
India’s unmodern drug policy is governed by the NDPS Act, which was passed over 30 years ago in 1985. More than half of the 50 United States have legalized medical marijuana since then, and 9 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Most European countries have also since shifted their perception of drug users from ‘perpetrator’ to ‘victim’. Drug abuse in Portugal has fallen by half since total decriminalization in 2001. India, however, has not changed it’s stance on drug use and abuse over the years.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, “several studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol) has been available by prescription for more than a decade in the USA. Other therapeutic uses of cannabinoids are being demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma, as an antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic, research in this area should continue.”
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Public policies drafted by parties in power have largely been ineffective in addressing the growing drug culture in India, and private persons have taken it upon themselves to resolve the situations. MP Dharamvir Gandhi has submitted a Private Member’s Bill to regulate cannabis and opium, and legalize medical marijuana. The draft is expected to be heard in the winter session of Parliament.
Indus Dictum has reported previously on the campaign for marijuana legalization in India. Various medical, legal and political experts support the principles of the bill, and have spoken about it privately as well as publicly. One of our guest authors, advocate Aditya Barthakur, had also filed a petition to legalize marijuana in the Bombay High Court in 2013.
Mr. Barthakur had challenged the inclusion of cannabis in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, along with all its extracts (ganja/bhaang/charas etc). The petition was dismissed by Bombay High Court, and Mr. Barthakur’s appeal was later dismissed by the Supreme Court.
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Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi has also called for the legalisation of medical marijuana in India, and Rajya Sabha MP Tathagata Satpathy has suggested legalising cannabis to discourage and curb the increasing rates of alcohol consumption.