Even though Cannabis is making its way into the medical mainstream in Western countries owing to its efficacy in multiple health conditions, but in India, patients are denied cannabis-based medicines despite the country having a tradition of thousands of years of using the properties of this wonder plant in the treatment of various ailments.
India needs to tweak its legal regulatory system on the lines of countries like Canada and Netherlands to establish newer categories of medicinal products derived from Cannabis, and expand the interpretation and definition of cannabis and its by-products so that cannabis-based medicines become more widely available. This was said by experts at a conference titled “Cannabis R&D in India: A Scientific, Medical & Legal Perspective,” jointly organized by the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) — Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM).
The day-long conference on the subject saw participation of prominent medical experts, policy makers and researchers, including Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office; Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, Director – CSIR-IIIM; Dr. Rajendra Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai; Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha); Dr. Rajender Pal Singh, Former DDG (North Zone), Narcotics Control Bureau; Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology; Dr. Manjari Tripathi, Head (Neurology), All India Institute of Medical Sciences; Dr. Anurag Srivastava, Head (Surgery), All India Institute of Medical Sciences; and Jahan Peston Jamas, Co-founder, Bombay Hemp Company.
In his address Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office said: “Since ancient times, cannabis-based products like Bhaang have been a part of Indian culture, social customs and festivals. There is a very thin line between use, misuse and abuse of a substance, and it is our responsibility to draw that line so that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Research into cannabis-based medicines is going to be very important for the management of chronic diseases like diabetes which cause excruciating neurological pain and for which currently there is hardly any relief. The age demography and epidemiology is undergoing a change in India – about 70% of the population is below 40 years. However, the size of the elderly population is going up too, as lifespan increases. Due to this, the incidence of diseases and malignancies that happen in the later decades of life is rising. Worse, people are getting afflicted with diseases of the elderly like diabetes at a much younger age. This is a big challenge. The world clinically overcame communicable diseases in the 1950s. Now, as the incidence of non-communicable diseases increase in India, we need to conduct pioneering research on drugs originating from plants and herbs found in the Indian mountainous regions. In the middle of the last century, such research gave us mint, which has now become an internationally used product. We need to replicate this kind of success by exploring the full medicinal potential of cannabis for the treatment and management of pain and health conditions for which there is currently no effective cure.”
Co-founder, Bombay Hemp Company Jahan Peston Jamas said,: “Chronic diseases are on the rise in India, and existing medical solutions are not proving adequate. In this scenario, cannabis-based medicines can offer a high-quality, cost-effective solution for patient populations across urban and rural India. The geriatric population of India is poised to reach 100 million people by 2020-2025. Unfortunately, R&D work with other forms of medicine for several critical conditions afflicting the elderly has plateaued. Cannabis has properties of binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors within the human body. Health conditions like mental disorders, rheumatism, osteo-based ailments and heart diseases can be greatly alleviated with the use of cannabis which has almost negligible side-effects, as shown by a range of global regulatory and research work.”