In a historic move, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently finalized its draft regulations to regulate hemp seeds as a food source. However, for its cousin cannabis, the road to legalization is still a long way off.
WHY IS THE FSSAI RULE IMPORTANT FOR THE HEMP INDUSTRY?
In November last year, the FSSAI said: “Hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour must be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale subject to restrictions. compliant standards.”
According to Charul Yadav, Partner at Obhan & Associates, the FSSAI notification is exciting news for the hemp industry, especially the health food sector, as it is considered a cure for health conditions such as arthritis, asthma, insomnia and anxiety.
“Through this notification, the FSSAI has finally recognized shelled or non-viable hemp seeds, and the oil and flour derived from them as a food or food ingredient,” Yadav says. “The notification removes the uncertainty surrounding the legality of these products on the market. It not only clarifies the FSSAI’s position on these products, but also sets standards for them. This will result in more players entering the market with high quality products, which will benefit consumers. »
WHAT IS THE CURRENT CANNABIS SITUATION?
The hemp plant might belong to the same species as cannabis, but the two are treated very differently in India. With several countries – led by the United States, Canada, Germany, Israel and Australia – having legalized cannabis, global sales reached $37.4 billion in 2021, and that figure is expected to reach more than $100 billion by 2026. However, India currently regulates it. through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 (NDPS).
According to Yadav, sections 8 and 10 of the NDPS act authorize state governments to authorize the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. In addition, Section 14 of the Act empowers the government to authorize the cultivation of cannabis exclusively for horticultural and industrial purposes by general or special ordinance.
Until now, states have not allowed the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, creating a stalemate, but that is starting to change. “The recent news of the endorsement of Himachal Pradesh’s Integrated Drug Prevention Policy is encouraging news,” Yadav notes. “The policy would have paved the way for the cultivation of cannabis for medical, scientific and industrial purposes in the state.”
Therefore, when it comes to substantive changes to the NDPS Act, Yadav says there is still a long way to go. “It will also be interesting to see the outcome of the cases pending in the Indian courts.”
WHAT ARE THE INDIAN CANNABIS INDUSTRY’S CHANCES FOR GROWTH IN THE FUTURE?
According to reports, there is a growing demand for cannabis for scientific research and medical purposes, and hemp products are gaining acceptance. However, consumer awareness remains low and public stigma remains.
This could gradually change as policies change. For example, the National Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Policy of 2017 states that “the cultivation of cannabis shall not be permitted in view of its limited proven uses for medical purposes. However, cultivation will be permitted for research purposes, including testing of various cannabis strains.
It further states that the central government should encourage research and testing of cannabis cultivars low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and also follow a cautious and evidence-based approach regarding the cultivation of cannabis for horticultural and/or horticultural purposes. or industrial, notes Yadav.
According to reports, in research facilities authorized by the government, India has slowly started medical research on cannabis. Additionally, some Indian cannabis startups have sprung up in recent years.
Although there is a slow increase in the acceptance of cannabis, even for medical purposes, Yadav says she hopes that in the future, “more states will allow the cultivation of cannabis for research purposes. scientific, medical and industrial”.