Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022
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Hankering For Hemp

The vales of Himachal Pradesh are flocked by seekers of drugs. The state plans to counter this blight by legalising the use of the non-narcotic form of cannabis with wide uses in medicine, industry and craft.

Hankering For Hemp
Tradition at work -

The slim, sharp leaves with serrated edges, and their opiate offspring, have a sly cachet around the world—symbol of counterculture and ‘free love’, or cool accessory of safely wannabe radicalism, best taken with a T-shirt depicting a beret- and beard-wearing revolutionary. In the Himachal Pradesh resort of Kullu, the dizzying variety of byproducts—cannabis, marijuana, hashish and hemp—is both common currency and, for most frequenters of this ‘little Amsterdam’, the town’s raison d’être. Indeed, café owners and the peddlers who skulk about them are charmingly blasé about the narcotics trade. It’s here, too, in the Parvati Valley, that the (in)famous Malana cream—the choicest hashish, say connoisseurs—is produced. Illegal cultivation of cannabis is a hard reality in the inaccessible mountain valleys of the area—and a major cause of worry for state agencies, especially the police.

There have been various proposals to liberate picturesque and tourist-­friendly Kullu from the icy grip of the drugs trade. The obvious solution, it now appears, lies in an antidote of the same virus coursing through the veins of the valley. Because, as many sober persons know, hemp (a non-narcotic form of cannabis) can be used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products—from medicines, cloth and cosmetics to rope and ink; from detergents to soaps. Thus, when Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced in the state ass­embly a move to legalise cultivation of hemp/cannabis, the relief was palpable. “Commercial hemp cultivation is permitted and regulated in many countries and in some states in India. This creates investment and employment opportunities. The state government proposes to frame a policy to permit commercial hemp cultivation with proper regulatory framework,” Thakur announced during his budget speech on March 6. The geo-climatic conditions in Himachal Pradesh are best suited to hemp cultivation for medicinal and ­agricultural use.

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