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The hemp plant is cultivated in more than 30 countries around the world on an industrial scale to manufacture a wide range of products – from hemp paper, textiles to building materials. Hemp crop was widely grown in India until the government (and governments worldwide) banned the hemp plant because of its cousin plant, marijuana which stands as a threat of drug abuse.
However, recent research has brought to light that these two are different plants from the same species, and hemp does not have psychoactive components. Hemp also has very less, or no THC, the psychoactive compound present in marijuana, and therefore does not give a high.
Governments are thereby reframing policies to enable the cultivation of hemp in India, and worldwide.
India and Hemp Cultivation
In India, hemp always played an essential role in society and was also widely used in ceremonies. And today it has been established that this miracle plant can drastically change the dynamics of the world market.
Not only is it a great plant creating so many things needed by people on an industrial scale, but it is also great for the environment.
Recently, the Uttarakhand government has taken a step ahead to reform its industrial hemp cultivation policies. The government has now issued a hemp cultivation license for the first time in history.
The government has issued a pilot project in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand to promote hemp cultivation all over the Uttarakhand state.
There are already several self-help groups besides the farmer organizations that are getting active support from the state government. These groups also get supported by private players who under the model of purchasing power parity. This module aims to increase the size and scope of the hemp industry.
Even small farmers in Uttarakhand can make an annual profit of one lakh rupees, and the yearly revenue gathered from hemp textiles will cross over 240 crores.
How Is Hemp Beneficial For Farmers?
Even though 60% of the Indian population are farmers – directly dependent on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood – India’s agricultural sector contributes to only 18 % of the country’s GDP.
If 50% of people in India are employed by agriculture but only generate 18% of the country’s GDP, it sheds light on the disparity of economic benefits of the country. These are also 50% of people who are affected the most by debilitating debts for half their lives.
The products manufactured from hemp are great for consumption by people without any harm. Recreational cannabis contains 10% THC, the compound giving the high. While the hemp plant has 0.3 percent of THC, this meager amount of THC renders everything harmless and also satisfies the rules and regulations of the NDPS Act.
The most significant benefit of hemp cultivation in Uttarakhand is that it is a local crop, and people, especially local farmers, possess considerable knowledge of the plant.
Hemp is also completely biodegradable and hence does not add up to more waste and burden on the planet. The waste created from hemp production is, therefore, treatable easily and in inexpensive ways. It is the best replacement for plastics and all products manufactured from felling millions of trees around the world. For example, one acre of hemp plantation can produce the same amount of paper as four acres of trees; the paper manufactured from hemp can also be recycled eight times compared to 3 times from paper made from trees.
Currently, there are more than 30,000 products manufactured from hemp, sold in the global market ranging from CBD oil, hemp clothes, paper, medicines, etc.
Hemp grows best in cold weather and hilly areas, thus suiting Uttarakhand, and the valleys of Jammu & Kashmir as the place for the cultivation of the raw industrial hemp.
Some of the other advantages of growing hemp are as follows:
As in most countries, India too has made cotton as its leading natural fiber for cultivation to produce almost everything. But the very same hemp plant can not only manufacture every item that cotton can grow but a lot more.
- The plant can be sown even in barren lands and cultivated with minimal usage of water and pesticides.
- Uttarakhand has a large number of villages that are almost empty or ghosted by its people. The villagers leave for metropolitan cities in search of work, leading to mass migration from these villages of Uttarakhand. If farmers start growing hemp as soon as possible, all these people can come back to their own homes and engage in farming and business. This could be a better impetus for these villagers as they understand and know the hemp plant better than most because hemp is a local crop.
- It gets ready for harvesting fast as the plant grows 12 feet within 3 to 4 months of sowing while farmers have to wait for more than nine months for cotton and most plants before they are ready to harvest.
- Hemp hardly requires any water and herbicides for its growth while cotton needs to be saved from a plethora of pests and insects for survival along with its need for enormous amounts of water. Hemp also naturally repulses weed growth. All of this collectively leads to a lot of cost for growing cotton.
- Farmers and villagers can enjoy a higher standard of living, save up more money than they can in big cities while cultivating their very own crops and land for livelihood.
- Hemp can be used to manufacture canvases as hemp canvasses have excellent UV ray and fire-resistant qualities. The domestic defense industry can benefit hugely from the production of hemp locally. The word canvas itself is derived from cannabis.
- The defense sector is one of the largest industries in India and also very large in the whole world.
There are only a few checks or regulations for those who are growing the plant. Firstly, the geographic location of the plant has to be shared with the concerned departments. When the plant is ready to harvest, but not yet harvested, the producer needs to inform their local excise department. The excise department is responsible for checking whether the THC level of the crop is within the permissible limits.
All the remarkable traits of the plant allow us to safely say that hemp can revolutionize the horrid situation of our environment, boom the economy of the whole country very fast, create jobs, enable sustainable living, and generating very less waste.
Because we cannot completely give up on everything we use in our daily lives, it is our responsibility to be mindful of the substances we use- where it comes from, who produces and benefits from it, and how our waste is getting treated.
If the government and responsible bodies can eradicate the stigma and confusion between marijuana and hemp consciously, India and Indian farmers, especially those from Uttarakhand and the hills, will profit in every way possible. Farmers will enjoy a better quality of life, their relationship with the soil sustained, while helping the entire nation’s GDP to improve significantly.
by VISHAL VIVEK, Founder HEMP FOUNDATION.