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CBD in India: Laws, Leaves, and Liquid Gold

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

CBD in India: Laws, Leaves, and Liquid Gold

In recent years, CBD (Cannabidiol) has gained significant attention worldwide for its potential health benefits. However, when it comes to India, there's a complex and evolving legal landscape surrounding the use and distribution of CBD products. In this article, we will delve into the legal status of CBD in India, providing you with a comprehensive overview of the current regulations and what you need to know.

Vijaya Leaf Extract, In Bottle, With Cannabis Leaf

Table of Contents:

  1. Understanding CBD

  2. The History of Cannabis in India

  3. The NDPS Act of 1985

  4. Is CBD Legal in India?

  5. Cannabis and AYUSH Ministry

  6. Importance of Cannabis in Ayurveda

  7. Difference between Ayurvedic Cannabis and Medical Cannabis

  8. Importing CBD in India

  9. State Variations

  10. Legal Challenges and Court Cases

  11. Conclusion

  12. FAQs

Understanding CBD

Before we dive into the legal aspects, let's understand what CBD is. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in the Cannabis plant. It is known for its therapeutic properties and is often used in various wellness products, including oils, creams, and even edibles.

The History of Cannabis in India

India has a long history with cannabis, dating back centuries. Traditionally, cannabis was used for medicinal and religious purposes. However, with the passage of time and colonial influences, the Indian government began regulating the use of cannabis and its derivatives.

The NDPS Act of 1985

The NDPS Act of 1985 is a key piece of legislation governing cannabis in India. Under this law, cannabis extracts are strictly prohibited, but it does acknowledge the use of plant extracts for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda. The Act categorizes cannabis, or hemp, as a narcotic substance, focusing on specific plant parts:

  • Charas: This refers to any resin extracted from the cannabis plant, whether in a crude or refined form, including concentrated preparations like hashish oil.

  • Ganja: This pertains to the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant, excluding the seeds and leaves if they are not accompanied by these tops.

  • Mixtures: Any mix of the above forms of cannabis, with or without other elements, as well as any drinks made from them, are also covered by the Act.

It's important to note that the Act doesn't mention bhang, which is made from the leaves of the cannabis plant. Interestingly, the government can authorize the cultivation of cannabis plants for industrial purposes, specifically for extracting fiber or seeds, or for horticultural reasons, which is a special provision within the law. To sum it up, the NDPS Act prohibits the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers while allowing the use of leaves and seeds.

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Is CBD Legal in India?

In India, the legal status of CBD is a bit complex due to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 (NDPS Act), which strictly prohibits recreational cannabis use. However, there are some nuances to consider.

  1. The NDPS Act, however, does not apply to cannabis plant leaves or seeds.

  2. If CBD is taken from cannabis leaves, it is not technically prohibited.

  3. CBD oil produced with a license granted by the authorities is allowed to be used.

Since 2019, the Indian government has permitted the use of CBD containing trace amounts of THC and cannabis leaf extracts, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine. Interestingly, while these forms are allowed, the government opposes the use of cannabis flowers and flower extracts.

It's worth noting that CBD primarily comes from hemp, and its cultivation is only permitted with specific authorization. The AYUSH Ministry and the Excise Department of India classify cannabis leaf (Vijaya) extracts as Schedule E-1 substances, which can be obtained with a valid Ayurvedic doctor's prescription.

So, when it comes to CBD in India, the rules are a bit hazy, but understanding the source and legality is essential for users and producers.

Cannabis and AYUSH Ministry

In India, cannabis leaf extracts, also known as Vijaya Leaf Extracts, are regulated substances falling under Schedule E-1. These regulations are overseen by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH) and the Excise Department. However, there's a notable exception – individuals can obtain these extracts with a valid prescription from an Ayurvedic doctor.

The use of cannabis leaves in Indian Ayurvedic medicine is indeed legal, but there are certain limitations. Back in 2010, the AYUSH Ministry introduced Rule 158 (B), which necessitates proof of effectiveness for licensing any drug, including those derived from cannabis. It's worth mentioning that the AYUSH Ministry allows the utilization of cannabis extract, which includes both CBD and THC components, within the realm of Ayurvedic medicine. This regulatory framework seeks to balance the traditional healing practices of Ayurveda with the need for quality control and safety in the use of cannabis-derived remedies. So, if you're exploring the world of Ayurvedic medicine in India, it's important to understand these guidelines to make informed choices for your well-being.

Sadhu holding a cannabis leaf with cannabis leaf background

Importance of cannabis in Ayurveda

Cannabis is a significant player in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest healing systems in India. It's even considered one of the five sacred plants in this ancient practice. Early Ayurvedic texts, like the Susruta, mentioned cannabis for its ability to combat phlegm-related issues.

According to the Rajanurghanta, cannabis has many benefits, like being an astringent (helping to tighten tissues), dissolving phlegm, relieving constipation, improving memory, and boosting appetite and digestion.

Ayurveda has about 200 different medicinal formulations that use cannabis as a key ingredient. These formulations come in handy for various health concerns such as pain, digestive problems, sexual health, mental issues, tumors, joint pain, high blood pressure, fevers, infections, kidney and bladder problems, and even skin conditions.

In Ayurveda, cannabis is something special, often called "soma," known for its ability to induce meditative states. But here's the twist: Ayurvedic practitioners don't usually use cannabis by itself. They blend it with other herbs to create specific remedies. Ayurveda relies on a wide variety of herbs, each with unique properties, to tackle different health issues.

But a word of caution: while Ayurveda recognizes the benefits of cannabis, its legal status varies across different countries. And using cannabis habitually and for extended periods, as Ayurveda points out, can disrupt the body's balance of three key physiological forces.

So, if you're curious about Ayurvedic cannabis remedies, it's essential to understand the legalities and potential effects on your body.

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Difference between ayurvedic cannabis and medical cannabis

Ayurvedic Cannabis:

  • Ayurvedic cannabis is a type of cannabis used in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient healing system from India.

  • In Ayurveda, it goes by names like "Vijaya" or "siddhi," and it's considered one of the five sacred plants.

  • People use Ayurvedic cannabis to help with issues like pain, inflammation, anxiety, and sleep problems.

  • You typically consume it as a tea or paste.

Medical Cannabis:

  • Medical cannabis is used to treat various medical conditions such as chronic pain, nausea, and seizures.

  • It contains two main components: THC (which can make you feel "high") and CBD (which doesn't have the same effect).

  • Medical cannabis products can come from different cannabis strains.

  • You can take medical cannabis as a pill, oil, or vapor.

So, in a nutshell, Ayurvedic cannabis is more about traditional medicine and addressing general health concerns, while medical cannabis is focused on specific medical conditions and contains THC and CBD. Both have their unique uses and benefits!

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Importing CBD in India

When it comes to importing CBD into India, here are the key points you need to know:

  1. Importing THC, including all its forms, can be allowed under the 2017 ITC (HS) import policy if you obtain a no-objection certificate from the narcotic commissioner.

  2. The narcotics commissioner can grant this certificate if they believe the product is intended for scientific or medical purposes.

  3. CBD shares the same molecular structure as THC and is considered an isomer of THC, so it may be eligible for import under this clause.

  4. While narcotics and psychotropic drugs are generally illegal in India, there are unique provisions in the NDPS Act that may allow their production, sale, use, or import for specific purposes.

  5. Cannabis extracts, including THC, CBD (as an isomer of THC), charas, ganja, and combinations of cannabis described in the NDPS Act, can be used and imported if it's for medicinal or research purposes and has the necessary clearances from the authorities.

In summary, importing CBD into India may be possible under specific circumstances, provided you meet the legal requirements and obtain the required approvals.

State Variations

The legality of CBD in India can be quite intricate, with varying interpretations across different states. In certain regions, CBD has been explicitly legalized for medicinal purposes, but the rules differ from one place to another. Generally, CBD oil made from cannabis plant leaves with less than 0.3% THC is entirely legal in India, whether for medicinal or recreational use. However, it's crucial to know that vaping CBD is prohibited in India, so it's advisable to explore alternative methods of consumption.

Additionally, it's essential to be aware that some Indian states may have their own specific regulations concerning the sale of CBD, particularly if it's marketed as a medicinal product. CBD oil that's manufactured under a license issued by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, of 1940, is considered legally permissible for use.

Legal Challenges and Court Cases

In recent years, India has seen legal disputes regarding the use of CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant. Back in 1985, India passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, which prohibited the recreational use of cannabis. However, this law and the International Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs didn't outlaw the medical use of cannabis.

Most CBD oils sold in India are made from full-spectrum cannabis leaf extracts, containing various cannabinoids, including CBD. Since the leaves are not considered narcotic, CBD oil from these extracts shouldn't fall under the NDPS Act. There are two sides to the rules: one permits THC and CBD in proprietary medicines under State Ayush Regulation, while another requires a Narcotic license for import/export.

Clarity and regulation are needed in this evolving landscape. Legal challenges have prompted discussions on the regulation of cannabis, with the Delhi High Court seeking government input in 2019. It's worth noting that CBD itself doesn't pose significant side effects. India faces the complex task of rapid development while preserving its biodiversity, in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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In India, the legal status of CBD remains intricate due to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 (NDPS Act). While some forms of CBD are permitted for medicinal and Ayurvedic use, recreational use remains strictly prohibited. The regulatory landscape is evolving, with ongoing legal challenges and efforts to clarify CBD's status. It's essential for individuals to stay informed about the latest developments in their specific state and ensure compliance with existing laws.


1. Is CBD legal for recreational use in India?

No, CBD is not legal for recreational use in India. It is subject to strict regulations and can only be used for specific medicinal or research purposes.

2. Can I purchase CBD products online in India?

Yes, you can purchase CBD products online in India, but it's crucial to ensure that they comply with the legal THC limits and are sourced from reputable manufacturers.

3. Are there any ongoing efforts to change CBD's legal status in India?

Yes, there are ongoing efforts and legal challenges to clarify and potentially change CBD's legal status in India. However, progress has been slow.

4. Can I grow my own CBD plants in India?

No, it is illegal to grow cannabis plants, including those with low THC content, for personal use in India.

5. Where can I find more information about the legal status of CBD in my state?

You can consult your state's official government website or seek legal advice to understand the specific regulations and interpretations of CBD in your state.


That's all about CBD in India: Laws, Leaves, and Liquid Gold - Stay Tuned and follow us for all the latest updates, news & promotional events.

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