Cannabis Based Medicines In India – What Should Be India’s Regulatory Policies?

In a country like India, where the medical infrastructure is abysmally poor when compared with the 1.3 billion population we have, talking about the mental health scenario as such might bring in about much more shame to the existing healthcare system laid in India.

Why are we concerned about drastic mental health ailments or about medical problems as such?

Recent occurrences of legalization of cannabis or marijuana in countries like Canada for recreational & medical purposes has raised concern in India as when a developed nation like Canada can legalize & regulate cannabis, what holds back a developing country like India to not yet regulate cannabis in way its beneficial for the patients as well as for the public who are suffering from multiple chronic ailments.

NCMH (National Care of Medical Health), states that at least 6.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of the serious mental disorder. According to recent WHO report nearly 56 million people suffer from depression whereas 38 million people are battling directly or indirectly from anxiety disorders & stress related ailments on daily basis. Legalization of cannabis will act as boon for all those who have such issues at large, if legalized for medical usage.

Medical cannabis can be considered effective at alleviating chronic and moderate pain, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, spasticity etc. This can make it an alternative yet effective palliative treatment for a multiple range of conditions. These includes cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis too.

Source: Mayo Clinic

  “ Ram Vishwakarma, Director of the Jammu-based Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) recently told     The Hindu that “Cannabis-based drugs have the potential to meet the unmet needs of terminally-ill cancer     patients and of those suffering from epilepsy and sickle cell anaemia, a hereditary disease that afflicts nearly two crore tribal living mainly in central States. ”

Major Bottlenecks For Medical Usage Of Cannabis A.K.A Marijuana In India :

Healthcare is still largely a state subject in India, so central ruling of legalization of marijuana for medical purposes if not for recreation needs, broad consensus among multiple state governments & health regulatory bodies is needed.

  • The draconian NDPS act (Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Drugs Act) of 1985, still heavily puts a ban on substance like cannabis including age old bhang.
  • Availability of limited clinical evidence with respect to the long-term effects of medical cannabis which is an issue causing a trouble for its legal status in most of the conservative countries across the world including India.
  • As, India is still a developing country, society’s approval is must especially when it comes drugs which has such polluted reputation across Indian community where it’s been labeled that cannabis is a potent drug that derails life of people at large.
  • So, more than parliamentary legalization, it’s the public acceptance of cannabis to be used for issues related to mental health is doubtful at large.

“A private bill was tabled in last year for amending the NDPS law. Dharamveer Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP who promulgated the bill, blames the NDPS for enabling more potent, addictive and dangerous alternative drugs that are available in the markets where legalization of drugs including cannabis in a regulated way can bring down on such illegal drug menace.”

Types of Cannabis Available in India For Medical Purposes:

  • THC and CBD are both major cannabinoids that are found in cannabis plants.
  • THC is found in marijuana type cannabis, while CBD is more prominent in hemp type cannabis.There are also other types of cannabinoids, such as CBG or THCV, which are also found in some varieties of cannabis.
  • CBD is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that can be more easily can be used as a medicine because it does not make you high. It seems to be the most effective for conditions where the nervous system is affected like epilepsy, anxiety, stress, Alzheimer’s etc. THC is a well-known psychotropic from cannabis that makes you feel high. It has a strong analgesic property and can treat the symptoms of chemotherapy in terminally ill cancer patients.

Promising Steps Towards Cannabis Legalization:

  1. Medical Cannabis license has been granted by the Government of India for the cultivation of Cannabis plants by the IIIM for medical use. Hence there has been a little shift in the attitude of Government towards making these medicines available In India for at least minor medical purposes.
  2. States like Sikkim are moving forward with a bold plan to decriminalize cannabis usage in an effort change the public perception which can bring more consumers for treatment. States like Uttarakhand have mulled in procedures to allow in to grow non-narcotic cannabis for industrial use, so that they can participate in the 1 trillion-dollar industry of which European, American & Chinese have long been a part of.
  3. India’s first ever research and development (R&D) license to grow cannabis and study its medicinal properties & use has been granted to the Council of Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) along the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO). The collaboration is on a project examining the potential medical benefits of marijuana in relation to chronic illness like cancer and epilepsy.


Canadian health inspector checking medical cannabis in marijuana farm.

“Canadian Government’s new regulations on legalizing marijuana for commercial as well as for medical purposes is a classic example for how to put in a constitutional framework to lay down the process for step by step legalizing cannabis in India. Also, South African regulatory policies are commendable towards legalizing usage of medical cannabis too.”

Regulatory Measures That Are Needed In India :

1.  India will need to standardize its cannabis strains to achieve predictable outputs of medicinal derivatives to bolster clinical research.

2. Policy makers need to holistically analyze the need for cannabis regulation & a bring a structured bill to encompass all the bureaucratic hassles.

3. Phase by phase introduction of cannabis for medical usage based upon clinical evidences charted needs to be put in along with committees that can independently issue any reforms needed on time to time basis.

4. Strict measures need to be put to decriminalize the cannabis farming and clinical procedures of issuing license to both cannabis farming along with medical business regulations needs to be put in on place & consumer safety must be taken prime importance.

5. Government agencies needs to take in the responsibility to change the public perception & licensing psychologists /psychiatrists to issue prescription for usual mental stress & depression related issues.

Though, the medical usage of cannabis looks promising in India as scientific organizations are taking leap in conducting clinical trials along with multiple state governments picking up positive attitude towards cannabis regulation. Sooner or later policy makers need to amend the NDPS Act to formulate a structured well sort out plan to legalize medical cannabis in India along with enhanced public acceptability to solve India’s burgeoning chronic health issues including the existing worse mental health scenario.

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Martin F.R.
Martin Fredrick Raj worked as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. He usually likes to write detail-oriented articles which are well-researched in articulated formats. Other than covering updates on analytics, artificial intelligence & data science, his interests also include covering politics, economics, finance, consumer electronics, global affairs and issues regarding public policy matters. When not writing any articles, he usually delves into reading biographies of successful entrepreneurs or experiments with his new culinary ideas.

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