In a first, the north Indian state of Uttarakhand would soon legalise the cultivation of cannabis.
However, unlike United States where the government has legalised smoking marijuana, in Uttarakhand the farmers are allowed to cultivate cannabis purely for industrial purposes.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat recently announced that farmers across the state, except those in the Terai and Bhabhar regions, will be given permission for the cultivation of hemp plants.
The state government has put a condition that the produce will be sold only to the department and not to others.
"The normal ranges of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects) content in plants that grow wild in Uttarakhand in abundance is 4% to 5% and this is which makes it give a high when smoked and is illegal to cultivate," Excise department officials to The Hill Post.
Cannabis plants or hemp that will be allowed for local cultivation for industrial purposes will have a THC content of 0.3 to 1.5%, the officials said.
The first step towards legalisation of cannabis cultivation in India was taken in 2010, when the Textile Ministry passed a Natural Fibre Policy, in which it identified the growing demand for hemp fibre. As per the policy, Uttarakhand, which has a tradition of growing hemp , was declared a nodal state for hemp promotion by the ministry.
According to a Scroll report published in 2014, the legalising of cannabis will help in the creation of an industrial hemp textile market in India, valued at an estimated Rs 240 million. Currently, the hemp production market is dominated by China, France and Germany.
For over 50 years, Indian hemp, or cannabis, was outlawed in India because of the intoxicating substances in its flowers and resin that produce some of most popular hashish and ganja. Due to this, anyone who cultivated the plant invited a prison term of up to 10 years.