The Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) has big plans as it recently announced an investment of Rs 1,100 crores (about $150 million) for hemp cultivation in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, according to IIHA President Rohit Sharma.
The money is coming from private investors Sharma, Chandra Prakash Shah and Nimit Kasliwa, who are joining with Indian corporate groups that Shah said will be named in due course.
IIHA this past summer received a license to grow industrial hemp on a pilot basis in Uttarakand in the first licensed hemp grow in the country since 1958. The group is a consortium of associations, leading firms, researchers other institutions who interface with government agencies and map out conditions conducive to a thriving Indian hemp industry. IIHA’s network embraces a wide range of governmental ministries and authorities who are backing its efforts.
Investment in growing, research
Sharma said the investment will go for cultivation, research and other initiatives to help advance the industry – with a focus on sustainable development that will boost the fortunes of farmers, and breathe new life into struggling local economies.
“We are opening the dialogue to contract with the farmers, lease their land and their labor, and help them survive better,” Sharma told HempToday. The investment from IIHA in industrial hemp cultivation will not only propel economic growth but also give farmers a great opportunity to live sustainable lives, he said.
Potential for native varieties
“Our mission is to lay down the roadmap to allow the trade to flourish,” he said of IIHA, who are not holding licenses exclusively but look to get others involved. “People who want to grow in Uttrakhand should contact our regional offices. We can help them get these licenses. Especially for farmers,” he said.
The pilot program, now underway, is studying native hemp varieties, generating valuable data about these candidate strains and their potential for cultivation and industry. Collected in northern India, in the Kashmir region, the indigenous strains were all found to contain less than 0.3% THC, conforming to currently accepted global limits. “These varieties are similar to those found in Yunnan, in China, for example. Humans appreciate borders but plants don’t,” Sharma said.
Beyond Utterakand, Sharma said IIHA has been contacted by the state of Maharashtra, where stakeholders hope to roll out their own hemp program. Meanwhile, the Association continues work on the policy front, collaborating with government to create a feasible hemp industry, and fighting for rationale THC standards.
1.5% THC level is proposed
The Association recently proposed a 1.5% THC limit, to include more native varieties that are well suited for industrial use but do not conform to the current extreme limit. While most of the world operates on a 0.3% THC limit for industrial hemp, some nations have already adopted a full 1.0% THC standard.
IIHA is also setting up a seed bank, to collect and conserve the many varieties. The purpose of the seedbank is not just for industrial varieties, but also for unique cannabinoid profiles, with a diverse range of cannabinoid ratios apparently identified in different varieties on the subcontinent.
“We’re already working with varieties that have more than 15% CBD. Or with only CBD, only CBC or only CBN. Strains that have only one cannabinoid, or one major cannabinoid and some others at very low levels,” Sharma said.
Looking beyond CBD
“These are important, because the future is not just CBD, it may be CBG, or it may be CBC,” Sharma said, noting that when enough data and research emerges about how individual cannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system, the purer compounds, and crops that contain peak amounts of the compounds will become more valuable. “They will allow us to create dedicated formulas for different conditions. This is the future, it will take time, but we need to start now,” Sharma said.
After visiting the EIHA conference in Europe earlier this year, Sharma has just returned from Canada, sharing his mission there. He is personally very supportive of Canada’s Hemp industry and recent cannabis legalization.
He likes their approach of “policy on the run”, and says he feels that there the government is actually listening to people, not like elsewhere, such as the United States, where theres a lot of talk but the industry struggles to get things done.
Sharma suggests that developing countries could have the upper hand in hemp as the industry unfolds. “They have the incentive to achieve more. But it will take time, maybe even 10 years, to compete with the developed markets.”
Current members of the IIHA are:
Hemp Pharma AMRO Pvt LTD
Chandra Parkash Shah & Co.
Canadian Hemp Foods
Athelia Life Science Ltd.
Organic Wellness Pvt LTD
Oriventor Engineering Ltd.
Dabur Research Ltd.
Alexa Pharma Ltd.
Crown Agro Pvt. Ltd.
Hemp Horizon Pvt. Ltd.
Altshift Pvt LTD.
Cross bow logistics.
Golden Fibre Ltd.
Recorn Fibre Ltd
Hrim Pharma Pvt. Ltd.
Tara Medicos Ltd.
Polygon Chemical Ltd.
Ernexo Holding B V
Canna Power B V