Cannabis and hemp has a long and important history in India. Cannabis was recognized as far back as the Atharva-veda (c. 1200 to 1000 BC) which mentions the ‘bhang’ plant as one of nature’s five sacred, distress-relieving plants. However, since 1985, due to mounting pressure from the Reagan administration’s “Just Say No” to drugs campaign, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act has relegated cannabis in India to the underground but, industrial hemp is beginning to make its comeback.
In April 2017 the Central government and the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued the first-ever research license to grow hemp to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR – IIIM) in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO). BOHECO was founded in 2013 and has been manufacturing and marketing merchandise fashioned out of hemp fiber and working extensively with government departments to help carve out a space for industrial and medical use of cannabis in India.
Over the past few years, BOHECO has been actively prototyping a number of products for their Hemp textile business and working with regulators at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to formally recognize hemp as a food item in the form of hemp seed, seed oil and protein. BOHECO has formed a strategic partnership with Dutch hemp experts to better understand the genetics of the plant. They are actively pursuing production in the Uttarakhand area of the country where industrial hemp is a naturally occurring phenomenon. BOHECO seems to be positioned at the pinnacle of a possibly massive industry as India begins to return to it’s roots as one of the world’s leaders in hemp.