No to Cannabis: Setback for Research in India as Coastal State of Goa Stops Legal Cultivation

Scientists are promoting the idea that compounds found in cannabis are very effective for pain relief and that research in the field should be given an impetus. Cannabis, coca, and opium are prohibited for any general cultivation, consumption, or possession under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in India.

Research into the medicinal use of cannabis to help in the management of various diseases has received a setback as the chief of India’s coastal state of Goa has turned down a proposal sent by the Indian Institute of Integrated Medicine (IIIM) for legal cultivation of the plant in the state.

Goa state chief Pramod Sawant was quoted by ANI as saying that his government will not allow the legal cultivation and production of cannabis.

The state government had earlier indicated being in favour of the proposal and that a go-ahead was likely to be given. However, the government’s move evoked criticism, and now the state chief’s denial of the proposal has put an end to all speculations regarding its approval. 

This has come as a setback to the medical fraternity in the country, which is pushing various state governments to allow legal cultivation of cannabis to study its beneficial uses in diseases like cancer, sickle cell anaemia, and epilepsy, among others. 

Although general cultivation of cannabis or opium is banned, some states like Uttarakhand, or the union territory of Jammu Kashmir, and Mumbai city (Maharashtra state) have gone ahead with research projects after getting a nod from the central government.

Dr Dhiraj Vyas, principal scientist heading a cannabis research project at the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine in Jammu and Kashmir, told Sputnik, “We are doing an umbrella research on development of plant materials, as there is no single variety available”.

“We are looking at its use in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, pain management in sickle cell anaemia, infectious diseases like tuberculosis”.

Abdul Rahim, another scientist from the IIIM, told Sputnik that the research on cannabis, which is a government initiative, is focused on pain management for cancer and epilepsy.

“We are working on developing a drug in the direction of a similar drug already approved by US Food and Drug Administration for epilepsy. There is a scientific proof that cannabis has medicinal qualities and if you look at Ayurveda (Indian traditional system of medicine) there are many preparations where cannabis is used as a treatment”, Rahim stated.

The research at the IIIM Jammu began after the government gave a license to cultivate limited amounts of cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2017.

Now, the institute, which is a facility of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, is running various projects on cannabis with several aspects, including cancer research which is being done in collaboration with the Tata Memorial Centre.

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