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Cannabis might be a whispered taboo topic, but the fact is that not much is known about its medicinal properties. To discuss how this plant can benefit humanity, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), and the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) jointly organised a conference to promote research on cannabis and its medical uses in India, titled ‘Cannabis R&D in India: A Scientific, Medical & Legal Perspective,’ on November 23 in Delhi.

The day-long conference saw a participation of prominent medical experts, policy makers, and researchers, including Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region and Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office; Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, Director – CSIR-IIIM; Dr. Rajendra Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai; Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha); Dr. Rajender Pal Singh, Former DDG (North Zone), Narcotics Control Bureau; Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSIR-Institute  of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology; Dr. Manjari Tripathi, Head (Neurology), All India Institute of Medical Sciences; and Dr. Anurag Srivastava, Head (Surgery), All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The conference was spread across three panel discussions:

  • The use of cannabis in medicine and India’s journey towards reclaiming its medicinal benefits, as well as, what lessons can be learned from previous efforts.
  • The Indian scenario of domestication, cultivation, and scientific interventions in cannabis.
  • Cannabis in Ayurveda to explore India’s deep-seated history with plant-based foods and medicines, what the future holds for Ayurveda, as well as other natural forms of treatment.

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Jahan Peston Jamas, Co-founder, Bombay Hemp Company, said, “The cannabis plant is a victim of misperception despite being an integral part of Indian culture. For thousands of years, it has been a trusted ingredient in the treatment of various ailments. Yet cannabis is mired in ambiguity when it comes to its application in modern healthcare. Till now, there has been limited debate in India on the medicinal, legal, and scientific aspects of using cannabis-derived products as medicine. The goal of this conference is to create an environment of curiosity and discovery within the scientific community and policy makers regarding the wide-ranging industrial and medical benefits of cannabis and help establish an action plan for all stakeholders to engage actively with cannabis for potential future opportunities.”

CSIR-IIIM’s (Council for Scientific & Industrial Research-Indian Institute of Integrated Medicine) primary focus of research is on drug discovery from natural products (medicinal plants and microbial species). Its mandate is to discover new drugs and therapeutic approaches from natural products, both of plant and microbial origin, enabled by biotechnology, to develop technologies, drugs and products of high value for national and international markets.

The vision of the Institute is to position IIIM as an International centre of excellence for natural products chemistry, chemical biology, pharmacology, and biotechnology to discover new chemical entities (NCEs) as drugs for unmet medical needs and provide scientific rationale and validity to various Indian systems of medicine. Additionally, CSIR-IIIM is the first research institute in India to receive an official research license to conduct fundamental research on the stabilisation, cultivation, and analysis of indigenous cannabis to explore the medical potential and properties of the plant.

Incorporated in 2013, Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), is the first startup in India to study the medical and industrial use of cannabis in partnership with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It counts Ratan Tata, the chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, and Google India’s managing director Rajan Anandan as investors, apart from others.

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BOHECO advocates for industrial hemp and its benefits to society. It aims to assist local farmers in cultivating crops by providing optimum seeds, best practices in cultivation techniques, and innovating agro-products derived from hemp.

BOHECO first began exploring the market through varied hemp products, beginning with clothing and now has both business and retail consumers. The company works with textile businesses, fabric suppliers, and designers who source hemp fabric. It also sells its own clothing products online and in niche boutiques across different parts of India, including Jaipur, Goa, and Rishikesh.

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