Scientists at the government-run Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine are conducting a study on the medical uses of cannabis. More specifically, they are looking into how they can tap into pot in the treatment and management of medical conditions like epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, and cancer.
The IIIM’s research on this matter is currently at its infant stage. The IIM is part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Reseach. Also involved in the study are the Indian Council for Medical Research and Development of Biotechnology.
Reportedly, clinical trials are said to be carried out at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, at Tata Memorial Centre, and at a hospital in Raipur.
According to Rajendra Badwe, director at Tata Memorial Centre, cannabis could be touted as a natural product and not as a drug.
The Indian researchers are working on a new compound that contains two chemical components, cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
IIIM Director Dr. Ram Vishwakarma told Hindustan Times that there is a lot of misconception about cannabis, due mainly to the abuse of its psychotropic component THC. However, he explained, the two compounds are very effective in pain relief when working together.
Animal trials have been conducted during the early stage of the study. The researchers wrote to the Drug Controller General of India to obtain the necessary permissions for this.
Moreover, for this research, IIIM had to get special permission from the state of Jammu and Kashmir so they could farm limited amounts of cannabis needed. IIIM is looking to ease out India’s tight regulations that prevent cannabis farming.
Under India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985, cannabis is prohibited in the country for purposes other than medical and scientific research. Specifically, the production, cultivation, possession, use, and transportation of cannabis is not allowed.
While NDPS banned the production and sale of cannabis flowers and resin, it permits the use of the seeds and leaves and allows the states to regulate the latter. Moreover, the cultivation of cannabis for horticultural use or for industrial purposes, like making industrial hemp, is legal in the country.
The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances also recognizes cannabis as a great source of fiber, biomass, and high-value oil. The Indian government, therefore, encourages research and cultivation of cannabis with low THC content
According to the minister of state for the Prime Minister’s office, Jitendra Singh, there is a thin line between the use, abuse, and misuse of cannabis and it is the government’s responsibility to draw that line.