Cannabis! A word every youth equates with smoking and getting high. Well, we all know about the recreational qualities of cannabis and how it is a mastered drug is drawing pleasure and satisfaction. Little do we know that in older times, Cannabis was used widely for spiritual, religious, cultural, and medicinal purposes. The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) claims that Cannabis has been used for over 1000 years in our Ayurveda and other alternative systems of medicine like Unani and Siddha. The Vedas have claimed it to be one of the five sacred plants, a liberator, and a giver of joy.
Did you know the British found the use of cannabis so extensive in colonial India that they commissioned a large scale study in the late 1890s? In fact, the government of India was directed by the British government to appoint a commission which would be responsible for looking into the hemp plant (the plant where cannabis comes from),
preparation of drugs from it, trade of those drugs, its social and moral effect on consumption and possible prohibition. The striking part is the resultant conclusion of this extensive study. The commission reported that cannabis (particularly, bhang) was ancient in Indian culture and hold religious importance for Hindus, and thus strict prohibition of the same might call social outcries.
Indians used to typically enjoy smoking cannabis, and even use it for curing ailments as an ‘Aushadhi’ until 1985 when under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, manufacturing, possession, selling, or purchase of cannabis was criminalized with imprisonment extending up to 20 years. After decades of treating and recognizing the use of cannabis as a taboo in India, scientists are now eager to explore the potentiality of this drug for medicinal purposes. There is conclusive evidence that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain in adults, for improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis and act as an antiemetic in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) revealed that Cannabis has showcased the effect of a potent analgesic, antiemetic, appetite stimulant, sleep inducer, improves reproductive capacity, and helps in dysmenorrhoea, cough as well as tuberculosis.
Approximately an acre of land portion in the Union territory of Jammu, which belongs to a government-owned lab called the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), is the first body in India to get a research license from the government to grow cannabis and research on its medicinal benefits. In the words of Dr. Abdul Rahim, head of planning and business development at the Institute, “It (Cannabis) is much, much more powerful than morphine. It can help in neurological disorders, in cancer, in arresting Alzheimer’s, and a whole range of diseases. We can’t afford to
Sourab Agarwal, the founder of the Medical Cannabis Foundation of India, has put the magical curing qualities of cannabis as a personal experience. In his words, “My aunt was feeling depleted and in some pain after getting surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation for her breast cancer. I gave her some cannabis and it has helped not just with the pain but in lifting her mood.” A group of scientists and doctors have urged the government to rethink the ban on marijuana and to relax the regulations, such as in the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada to allow cannabis-based medicines to be made available. We do not know where the policies are headed to, but cannabis being used for medicinal purposes is surely the way forward in our health sector.