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India's Industrial Hemp Cultivation Journey: Past, Present & Future

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

India's Industrial Hemp Cultivation Journey: Past, Present & Future

In the heart of India, a green revolution is quietly unfolding as the nation embraces the cultivation of hemp. With its rich historical significance and promising economic potential, hemp is emerging as a game-changer in India's agricultural landscape. This versatile crop, known for its sustainability and diverse applications, is not only bringing hope to farmers but also paving the way for a greener and more prosperous future. Join us on a journey through India's hemp fields as we explore the nation's tryst with hemp cultivation and its pivotal role in driving sustainable growth.

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

    1. Historical Significance of Hemp in India

    2. Influence of International Agreements

    3. Impact of Regulatory Frameworks

    4. India's Changing Perspective on Hemp

  2. Hemp's Economic Potential

    1. Global Industrial Hemp Market Growth

    2. India's Potential in Hemp-based Agriculture

    3. Research Initiatives in Hemp Cultivation

  3. Regulatory Challenges

    1. NDPS Act and Hemp Classification

    2. Licensing Challenges and Excise Duties

    3. State Initiatives in Legalizing Hemp

  4. State Initiatives

    1. Jammu & Kashmir State Excise Act

    2. Uttarakhand's Pioneering Step

    3. Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur's Regulations

  5. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Hemp, often associated with its close relative cannabis, has a long and storied history in India. From its revered status in ancient texts like the Vedas to its ban during the British colonial era, hemp has witnessed a rollercoaster ride of acceptance and prohibition. However, in recent years, the tide has been turning, and India is once again looking to its roots to cultivate a brighter future. This shift is fueled by a growing awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of hemp, as well as a changing global perspective on its potential. In this exploration, we delve into India's fascinating journey with hemp cultivation, from its historical significance to the promising green revolution that is unfolding today.

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1.1. Historical Significance of Hemp in India

Hemp's rich history in India spans thousands of years, dating back to the Vedas, where it was revered as one of the five sacred plants. This versatile plant has thrived naturally in various regions of India, offering a wide range of economic opportunities. \


However, in 1930, the British colonial rulers imposed a ban on cannabis, which included hemp, citing unscientific concerns about its negative effects. This move was driven, in part, by the British desire to introduce alcohol to India, which they perceived as addictive.


Prior to the ban, substances like Bhang, derived from cannabis, were legal and widely used. Unfortunately, even 72 years after gaining independence, India continues to uphold the British-era policies on cannabis, despite its significant presence in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. This persistence of colonial thinking has led India to miss out on the immense potential of the hemp market, which is not only valuable but also environmentally friendly.


1.2. Influence of International Agreements

International agreements have played a significant role in shaping India's regulations regarding hemp.


1.2.1. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961):

  • In 1961, India signed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a pivotal international agreement.

  • This convention had broad-reaching implications, as it set stringent rules for all drug-related activities, spanning production, manufacturing, export, import, distribution, trade, use, and possession.

1.2.2. Classification of Cannabis and Hemp:

  • The Single Convention classified cannabis, including hemp, as a Schedule IV drug, placing it in the most restrictive category.

  • India, as a signatory, was required to strictly limit the production, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes only.

1.2.3. Impact on India's Regulatory Landscape:

  • India's commitment to this international treaty resulted in the implementation of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 1985.

  • This act reinforced strict regulations on all activities related to hemp within the country, aligning with the global framework set by the Single Convention.

1.2.4. Prioritizing Medical and Scientific Use:

  • The influence of international agreements like the Single Convention underscores India's focus on prioritizing the medical and scientific use of hemp.

  • These agreements have shaped a legal framework that restricts other aspects of cannabis, including hemp while emphasizing its legitimate medical and scientific applications.

In summary, India's hemp regulations have been significantly influenced by international agreements such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. These agreements have established a legal framework that places a strong emphasis on medical and scientific use while imposing restrictions on other aspects of cannabis, including hemp, within the country. India's commitment to these international agreements highlights their importance in shaping the nation's approach to hemp-related activities and its overall legal landscape

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1.3. Impact of Regulatory Frameworks

In India, the regulatory landscape for hemp is currently in its early stages of development. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 is the primary legislation governing psychoactive substances, but it does allow exceptions for medicinal or scientific purposes. Interestingly, bhang, a preparation made from cannabis leaves, remains permissible under specific circumstances.


1.3.1. Cultivation and Production in Uttar Pradesh:

  • Uttar Pradesh state has taken proactive steps by establishing a regulatory framework for licensing hemp cultivation and production.

  • This move signals a positive shift towards legitimizing the hemp industry in the country.

1.3.2. Hemp as a Food Product:

  • The Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Amendment Regulations of 2020 are set to regulate hemp as a food product.

  • This regulatory change holds the potential to open up new avenues for the use of hemp in food products, which could benefit various industries.

1.3.3. Limited Cannabis Policy Discussions:

  • It's crucial to note that discussions and research on cannabis policy in India have been limited.

  • The regulatory framework for hemp is still evolving, providing opportunities for further exploration and development in this emerging industry.

1.3.4. Need for Research and Discussions:

  • As India navigates the complexities of hemp regulation, there is a clear need for more robust discussions and research.

  • These efforts are essential in shaping the future of the hemp industry in India and ensuring that regulations align with evolving global standards.

In summary, India's regulatory landscape for hemp is evolving, with promising developments in Uttar Pradesh and the potential regulation of hemp as a food product. However, there is a pressing need for more extensive discussions and research to guide the future of the hemp industry in the country. Visit the following links to learn more about the topics

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1.4. India's Changing Perspective on Hemp

India's relationship with hemp is undergoing a transformative shift, driven by its vast economic potential and deep-rooted historical significance. Hemp, a remarkably versatile plant, finds applications across a multitude of industries, including agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food and beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care.


1.4.1. Eco-Friendly Champion:

  • Hemp stands out as an eco-friendly option, requiring significantly fewer pesticides and water compared to cotton, a commonly used fiber plant.

1.4.2. Historical Heritage:

  • India possesses a unique advantage in the burgeoning hemp industry due to its rich heritage with the crop.

1.4.3. Government Regulations:

  • The government tightly regulates the cultivation of industrial hemp, primarily containing CBD and having negligible THC content, ensuring that it doesn't produce any psychoactive effects.

1.4.4. Limited Ayush Licenses:

  • Currently, only a select few companies hold the coveted Ayush licenses to manufacture and supply hemp products to retailers.

1.4.5. Challenges and Potential:

  • Despite facing challenges such as low awareness among farmers and consumers, as well as limited production and marketing avenues, the Indian hemp industry is already valued at $2-3 million.

1.4.6. Promising Growth:

  • Predictions estimate its worth to soar to a staggering $500-700 million in the coming years, making it an enticing opportunity for entrepreneurs.

1.4.7. Entrepreneurial Enthusiasm:

  • Entrepreneurs are gearing up to seize this promising opportunity, eager to navigate the evolving landscape of hemp in India.

India's journey with hemp is on the brink of a significant transformation, with the potential to revolutionize various industries while promoting sustainability and economic growth. As awareness grows and regulations evolve, hemp's role in India's economic landscape is set to expand, offering exciting opportunities for those ready to embrace this green revolution.

create an image of a Indian hemp cultivation farm, farmers and businesses on the side, with the title "Hemp", 3d render, typography, conceptual art

2. Hemp's Economic Potential

Hemp's low THC content positions it for significant growth in the global industrial hemp market, projected to reach USD 26.6 billion by 2025. India has immense potential in hemp-based agriculture.


2.1. Research Initiatives in Hemp Cultivation

In India, research institutions are playing a crucial role in exploring the possibilities and benefits of hemp cultivation. Here are some notable research initiatives in this field:


2.1.1. Hemp Foundation in Uttarakhand:

  • A non-profit organization based in the Indian Himalayas.

  • Focuses on researching hemp cultivation techniques.

  • Strives to innovate hemp-based products like textiles, food items, and medicinal applications.

2.1.2. Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP):

  • A government-funded research institute.

  • Conducts research on the medicinal properties of hemp.

  • Aims to develop hemp varieties rich in CBD and other beneficial compounds.

2.1.3. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay:

  • A prominent technical university.

  • Researches the environmental benefits of hemp cultivation.

  • Seeks to harness hemp to improve soil health and reduce pollution.

2.1.4. National Institute of Industrial Research (NIRI):

  • Government-funded research institute.

  • Investigates the industrial applications of hemp.

  • Focuses on developing advanced processes for extracting and processing hemp products.

2.1.5. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR):

  • Government-funded research organization.

  • Conducts research on hemp cultivation in Indian conditions.

  • Works on developing hemp varieties suitable for India's diverse climates.

Collaboration between research institutions, scientists, and agricultural communities is vital for comprehensive and relevant hemp research. Scientists contribute expertise in hemp biology and chemistry, while agriculturalists provide insights into the unique challenges and opportunities of hemp farming in India. Together, they aim to make hemp a sustainable and profitable crop for the nation.


However, several challenges hinder hemp research in India:

  1. Unclear Legal Status: The absence of clear legal regulations for hemp makes research and product development challenging.

  2. Seed Availability: Limited access to high-quality hemp seeds and clones hampers the growth of productive and high-quality hemp crops.

  3. Lack of Best Practices: Insufficient knowledge about optimal cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods can result in low yields and subpar products.

Despite these obstacles, the research community continues to make significant strides in uncovering hemp's potential. With ongoing research, we anticipate discovering even more innovative and sustainable applications for this versatile plant in India.

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2.2. Regulatory Challenges

In India, hemp cultivation faces significant regulatory hurdles primarily due to the classification of hemp as a "narcotic drug" under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) of 1985. These regulatory constraints have hindered the growth of the hemp industry, but there are recent positive developments.

  1. NDPS Act Classification: The NDPS Act has long categorized hemp as a narcotic drug, making its cultivation and use subject to strict regulations. This classification has been a major obstacle for the hemp industry in India.

  2. FSSAI Recognition: A promising development is the acknowledgment of cannabis derivatives, including hemp, by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as a food category. This recognition opens new avenues for hemp in the food industry.

  3. Uttarakhand's Progressive Policy: Among Indian states, Uttarakhand has taken a progressive step by formulating a policy under Section 14 of the NDPS Act, 1985. This policy allows for the industrial and horticultural cultivation of the hemp plant, setting an example for others to follow.

  4. Limited Legalization: Unfortunately, Uttarakhand remains the only state to have fully legalized industrial hemp cultivation. Other states have yet to tap into the vast opportunities offered by the hemp industry.

  5. Education and R&D Challenges: One of the major hurdles facing the hemp sector in India is the lack of education and research and development initiatives aimed at advancing hemp crop cultivation and its applications.

  6. Positioning as a 'Superfood': To generate consumer awareness about hemp, the hemp community is actively promoting it as a 'superfood.' Hemp is rich in essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to overall good health.

The hemp market in India holds immense potential, and it is poised to grow significantly. India has the potential to target a trillion-dollar market by 2030, while the global market is estimated at 9.1 billion dollars. Despite regulatory challenges, the future looks promising for the Indian hemp industry as it navigates toward greater acceptance and recognition in various sectors, including food and agriculture.

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3. Licensing Challenges and Excise Duties

The growth of the hemp industry in India faces significant hurdles, with licensing challenges and excise duties being major obstacles:


3.1. Licensing Challenges:

  • Obtaining a license for hemp cultivation is a complex and time-consuming process.

  • Multiple government agencies have varying requirements for licensing, creating confusion for farmers.

  • This complexity can hinder farmers from navigating the process and obtaining the necessary permits.

3.2. Excise Duties:

  • The government imposes high excise duties on hemp cultivation and processing.

  • These duties can erode potential profits for hemp farmers, making the industry less economically viable.

Some states, such as Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, have taken positive steps to alleviate these regulatory burdens on hemp cultivation. They have simplified the licensing process and reduced excise duties, thereby fostering the growth of the hemp farming sector within their regions.


Nonetheless, several challenges persist that must be addressed to unlock the full potential of the hemp industry in India:


3.3 Lack of Awareness:

  • Many individuals in India remain unaware of the numerous benefits associated with hemp.

  • This limited awareness can impede efforts to attract farmers to engage in hemp cultivation.

3.4 Infrastructure Gaps:

  • India lacks adequate infrastructure for processing and marketing hemp products.

  • These deficiencies can pose difficulties for farmers in selling their hemp produce and realizing profitable returns.

3.5 Research and Development Needs:

  • There is a pressing need for increased research and development efforts in hemp cultivation and processing in India.

  • Such research can enhance productivity and profitability within the hemp farming sector.

Despite these challenges, the hemp industry holds immense economic potential for India. To promote its growth, the government can play a pivotal role by streamlining regulatory processes, reducing excise duties, and investing in comprehensive research and development initiatives. This will help pave the way for a thriving and sustainable hemp industry in the country

create an image of a Indian hemp cultivation farm, farmers and businesses on the side, Indian farms, indian map, people taking hemp, people using hemp products, people helping farmers", 3d render, conceptual art

4. State Hemp Cultivation Initiatives in India

Several states are taking steps to legalize hemp cultivation within their borders, each with its own legislative framework.


4.1. Jammu & Kashmir State Excise Act (2022):

  • The Jammu & Kashmir State Excise Act, passed in 2022, enables the government to waive the requirement for licenses for hemp cultivation.

  • This progressive move simplifies the process for farmers and businesses to engage in hemp cultivation and utilization.

4.2. Uttarakhand's Pioneering Legalization (2018):

  • Uttarakhand was the first Indian state to legalize hemp cultivation back in 2018.

  • The state government has issued licenses to numerous farmers and businesses to cultivate and utilize hemp.

  • Uttarakhand is also home to the Indian Hemp Research Institute, a prominent research center focused on hemp.

4.3. Regulations in Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur:

  • Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Manipur are actively exploring hemp regulation to promote this burgeoning industry.

  • These states are in the process of developing policies and regulations to govern hemp cultivation and utilization.

4.4. Other States Considering Legalization:

  • Rajasthan, Odisha, and Karnataka are among other states considering the legalization of hemp cultivation.

  • These states are recognizing the economic potential and sustainability benefits of hemp.

4.5. Impact of Legalization:

  • Legalizing hemp cultivation in India is a significant stride for the industry, eliminating the fear of prosecution for farmers and businesses.

  • This move is expected to generate employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth, and foster sustainable agricultural practices.

As the hemp industry continues to flourish, more Indian states are likely to follow suit by legalizing hemp cultivation and enacting policies to regulate this sector. This not only supports the growth of a promising industry but also contributes to job creation, economic development, and sustainable agriculture across the nation.


5. Conclusion

In conclusion, India's relationship with hemp is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by its rich historical significance and the immense economic potential it holds. Despite complex regulatory frameworks and historical baggage, the country is beginning to recognize the versatile and sustainable opportunities presented by hemp across various industries. As states like Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir take pioneering steps in legalizing hemp cultivation and simplifying licensing procedures, the nation's hemp industry is poised for significant growth. India's journey with hemp exemplifies the delicate balance between tradition, economic prospects, and evolving regulations, offering a promising future where hemp plays a pivotal role in the nation's economic growth and sustainable development. This is India's Industrial Hemp Cultivation Journey: Past, Present & Future



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