Regulatory Roadblocks: How India is Falling Behind in the Hemp Race

Imagine a treasure chest, gleaming with gold, right in your backyard. 

Yet, you never open it. This is the story of India and the transformative hemp plant.

Do you know how revered hemp was in our ancient texts? 

It was hailed as the “Ayurvedic miracle.” Fast forward to today, and this miracle is shrouded in bans across many states.

The Essence of the Matter

India, with its rich tapestry of cultures, climates, and traditions, stands at a unique crossroads.

We possess the fertile lands, the eager market, the skilled hands, and the financial might. With these assets, India could wear the crown in the global hemp arena.

Here’s a nugget from the past: Back in the 1920s, hemp was christened the world’s first “billion-dollar green gold.”

Yet, we’re sidelining this potential goldmine, much like asking the legendary Milkha Singh to sprint with weights on his feet. Such is the weight of the regulatory chains binding hemp in our nation.

Historically, haven’t we seen the consequences of over-restriction? 

The prohibition era in the US led to the rise of illicit bootlegging and organized crime. 

Over-regulation can stifle growth, innovation, and progress.

To paint a clearer picture, here’s what’s strangling the Indian Hemp Renaissance:

  • Nobody understands what’s legal and what’s not.
  • Most remain unaware of hemp’s vast possibilities.
  • Overly strict rules suffocate potential growth.
  • There’s no single policy; it’s a mishmash of varied rules.

Let’s delve deeper into these challenges and explore the path forward.


What Holds India Back In The Hemp Race

  1. Confusing Hemp Laws

This is the document that practically outlawed hemp in India for a very long time.

Regarding hemp in India, the NDPS Act, 1985 basically says, “As a country, we frown upon hemp in India and restrict it. However, each state can make their own laws regarding hemp”.

India’s states have the autonomy to craft their own hemp narratives, but within certain boundaries. 

Here’s a breakdown of the powers vested in them:

  • Cultivation & Production: States can green-light the cultivation of hemp seeds and leaves. However, the flowers remain off-limits.
  • Manufacturing: State authorities hold the key to granting licenses for hemp product manufacturing.
  • Transportation: Each state can set its own rules for transporting hemp, but only within its borders.
  • Import & Export:
    • Inter-state import of hemp is permissible.
    • Similarly, inter-state export is allowed, but with limitations.
  • Purchase, Sale, Use & Consumption: States have a say in these areas, but their decisions are bound by overarching guidelines.

It’s a paradoxical situation. 

While hemp faces numerous restrictions, states simultaneously enjoy significant freedom in its governance. 

This duality, akin to giving someone wings but tying their feet, hampers India’s stride into a lucrative global market.


Survey on “Do you think Cannabis will have a positive impact?”

  1. Limited Awareness And Perception

India, a land of ancient wisdom and modern aspirations.

Yet, when it comes to hemp, we’re caught in a web of misconceptions.

Hemp is not marijuana. Let me say that again. Hemp is not marijuana.

Why, then, do so many of us believe otherwise?

It’s like mistaking the mighty Ganges for a mere tributary.

Our ancestors knew the value of hemp. They called it a gift from the gods.

But today? We see shadows where there is light.

Cannabis, the umbrella term, shelters both hemp and marijuana. But they’re worlds apart.

One intoxicates. The other innovates.

Our nation’s potential is vast. From the Himalayas to the Deccan Plateau, hemp could be our green gold.

But first, we must break free from age-old myths.

Remember the story of Arjuna and the fish’s eye? Focus is key.

Let’s focus on the truth. Let’s embrace hemp’s potential.

For our farmers. For our economy. For India.


  1. Challenges With Regulations

India, a land where traditions meet modernity.

Yet, when it comes to hemp, we’re walking a tightrope.

Hemp, once our ancestors’ revered food, is making a comeback. Companies are trying, with all their might, to bring it to our plates.

But the path is strewn with hurdles.

Take FSSAI, for instance. Their rulebook on hemp feels like the Mahabharata, vast and intricate.

Some of the rules are common sense, while many others aren’t. 

Here’s a glimpse:

  • Recognition: Only recently, in November 2021, did FSSAI acknowledge hemp seed and its products as “food”. A step forward, but just a baby step.
  • THC Limits: Hemp seeds for our food must come from plants with less than 0.3% THC. For those unfamiliar, THC is what gives the ‘high’.
  • Beverage Boundaries: Turn those seeds into a drink? Ensure it has no more than 0.2 mg of THC for every kilogram.
  • CBD Caps: CBD, another compound in hemp, is capped at 75 mg per kilogram in food products.
  • Food Fundamentals: Total THC in hemp food? A mere 5 mg per kilogram.
  • Label Laws: Don’t you dare label hemp seed products as health boosters with CBD. And absolutely no hinting at any psychostimulatory effects.
  • Marketing: Pictures of the cannabis plant? A big no. And the word “marijuana”? Erase it from your vocabulary.

This is just FSSAI. There’s also the DoP, The Drugs/ Cosmetics Act, and countless policy discussions.

It’s like asking Sachin Tendulkar to play cricket with one hand tied behind his back.

Hemp has the potential to be our next big innings. But first, we need to level the playing field.


  1. Inconsistent State Policies On Hemp In India

Imagine a story, set in the heart of India.

State A, where fields of green hemp sway in the breeze. They cultivate, they produce, they sell.

State C, where the people eagerly await hemp’s goodness. They can buy, they can use, they can relish.

But between them lies State B, a land of uncertainty. No hemp may pass its borders.

It’s like having a river with no bridge.

State A has the water, State C has the thirst, but State B? It’s the parched land in between.

How do we bridge the gap between A and C?

Flying hemp across skies? Not practical for businesses.

It’s like having the spices for a perfect biryani but no pot to cook it in.

Here’s a case in point.  

Assam. A place where even the sacred “bhang”, a drink with deep cultural roots, faces bans. Despite its legal status under the NDPS Act.

India, with its myriad rules and diverse states, presents a puzzle.

Hemp has the potential to be the missing piece. But first, we need a clearer picture.


Things To Remember

Hemp stands at the crossroads, yearning for the winds of change.

Take the tech boom in Silicon Valley. Initially, there were apprehensions, but as regulations eased, innovation soared, making the U.S. a tech titan. 

Similarly, Japan’s rapid embrace of automotive innovations in the 20th century, despite initial resistance, transformed it into a global automotive powerhouse.

For hemp in India, the story is still unfolding.

The shadows of unclear regulations loom large, casting a gray pall over the industry’s potential. No industry thrives in ambiguity, and for hemp, the stakes are even higher.

Yet, amidst the clouds, there’s a silver lining.

India is waking up to the promise of industrial hemp. FSSAI’s nod to hemp seeds as food, though hedged with restrictions, is a beacon of progress. These rules, while seemingly stringent, lay the foundation for a robust, reliable market in the future.

But for hemp to truly blossom, a unified vision across states is imperative.

As we pen down this chapter, we remain hopeful. Perhaps, like other global industries, Indian hemp will find its golden era when better sense prevails.

Thank you for journeying with us through this narrative. Until next time, stay curious and informed.