February 10, 2018
Yoga Guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda is now eyeing cannabis space in India. After a few Indian politicians backed cannabis research and legalisation of marijuana in the country, Patanjali is now intensifying studies on the plant’s medicinal and industrial properties.
“In ayurveda, since ancient times, parts of cannabis (hemp), for instance, have been used for medicinal purposes. So, we are looking at various formulations. We should ponder over the benefits and positive uses of the cannabis plant,” chief executive Balkrishna told Quartz.
Patanjali’s Research & Development Centre in Haridwar, with its team of some 200 scientists, is exploring the benefits of close to 200 indigenous Indian plants and their medicinal uses.
Patanjali has challenged many multinational companies in the past selling Ayurveda-based products such as toothpaste, face wash, hair oil, detergent, etc. Although, cannabis is a highly-controlled substance in India, Patanjali aims to tap this space taking cue from western countries, where cannabis is legal. India is yet to recognise its cannabis economy.
The United States, where cannabis is legal in some states, already has a burgeoning $8 billion cannabis economy. In Canada, where medicinal marijuana is legal, cannabis sale account for as much as 0.2 per cent of the GDP.
“In western markets, parts of the cannabis plants are being used for fibre for cloth or some kinds of oils. Similarly, we are doing some research to see that the harmful or intoxicating properties are removed and then it is used,” Balkrishna added.
At a TEDx event, held recently in Panckula, Balkrishna put his weight behind legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, and for opening business and employment opportunities in India.
Balkrishna said seeds of the plant were useful, the fibre could be used for clothes, and the plant's controlled cultivation could help India raise a new industry altogether. "By criminalizing marijuana, we are denying a full-fledged business opportunity to our people," he said.
However, the push for making cannabis legal in the country is gaining momentum quickly. In 2015, Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, a Member of Parliament from Patiala, had petitioned to legalise the possession as well as consumption of marijuana in India along with that of other ‘non-synthetic’ intoxicants.
In 2017, Gandhi moved a private member’s bill to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, earning the support of late actor and BJP MP Vinod Khanna as well as Tathagata Satpathy, a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Odisha.
In 2017, one of Modi’s ministers also voiced support to legalisation of marijuana. Women and child development minister, Maneka Gandhi suggested that legalising the drug for medicinal purposes could be beneficial in India.