Indian state launches a new hemp era in the land of ‘bhang’

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An Indian state has made history by granting a cultivation permit for industrial hemp to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA). The permit allows a pilot program to take off in the Pauri Garhwal district in the state of Uttarakhand. The project aims to promote hemp farming and the development of hemp industry value chains. Among farmers, hemp is being touted as a desperately needed cash crop.

There is already a large demand for hemp products on the Indian subcontinent, and it is hoped that this project will help establish domestic production, encourage entrepreneurs and investors, and stimulate local economies,  Trivendra Rawat, a state minister told the India123 news service.

Hemp gets its ‘fair due’

Hemp “is getting its fair due and coming to the forefront of a positive dialogue,” Rohit Sharma, the president of IIHA, said in a press release after the permit was issued. The Association is a consortium of stakeholders working in support of the hemp industry in India.

Uttarakhand, which is located in northern India, borders Nepal and China. State officials see hemp’s potential to revive Indian agriculture and create jobs. For starters, new supplies of hemp fiber could rapidly feed into the existing Indian textile industry to address growing global demand for hemp textiles.

But start-ups and R&D projects are popping up all over the country, as government and entrepreneurs awaken to hemp’s broader potential in India, the world’s 7th largest economy.

State control?

Uttarakhand officials first announced their intention to legalize cultivation of industrial hemp in April 2017, with the stipulation that all production be sold directly to the state. It is unclear whether it this condition applies to IIHA’s permit.

Investors also are taking note of India’s potential. Tata, the Indian industrial giant, provided seed capital of $1 million to Mumbai-based BOHECO late last year. That company in turn gained the first permit to research the plant’s medicinal value (also gaining a permit to trial 20 cultivars for this purpose).

Uttarakhand’s example

Meanwhile, many Indian companies have applied for government approvals and research trials, and other states are sure to follow Uttarakhand’s example.

India is considered one of the homelands of the genus Cannabis, where the plant grows wild. Cannabis has been used for millennia on the subcontinent, and is deeply incorporated into local culture and religious practices; it is so deeply ingrained in Indian culture that the government has never been able to outlaw it completely. The government has, however, maintained control over the industry by monopolizing all production, with sales through licensed “bhang shops” that sell cannabis for food and religious celebrations.

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