Himachal is home to the popular Malana Cream found in Parvati Valley. But, this hippie trail famous for its mild narcotics and wild soirees isn’t the only destination in the state for stoners. Hash and weed are readily available in most towns in Himachal, albeit, the police try to keep a leash on the trade.
Yami* and Vasu* are a middle-aged husband-wife duo who run a small grocery shop in McLeodganj. Someone in the neighbourhood tells me they sell the best pot at the best price. I linger inside their shop, picking up random objects from the shelf, looking and lurking, waiting for a moment when there are no other customers around. But before I can make my move, Yami walks up to me and asks if I’m looking for something ‘special’. I say yes. She begins walking to the door and asks me to follow. Three houses away, she leads me to a tiny room through the back door entrance. The room is bare but for two plastic chairs, a plastic table with a scale sitting on it, and a sack thrown casually in the corner. Yami opens the sack and shows me three variants to choose from.
Two kilometres uphill is the biggest paraphernalia shop in McLeodganj. Of course, they don’t just sell paraphernalia, if you know what I mean. When I make a visit there, the manager – a jaunty man in his early 20s – warns me that the cops are doing their rounds these days, so I must be careful.
Earlier last month, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur gave a go ahead to develop policies and practices for cultivation of hemp or cannabis. But Yami, Vasu and the young man at the shop with psychedelic interiors are not the beneficiaries of this new provision. Nor is Himachal the first Indian state to legalise cultivation of marijuana. (Uttarakhand legalised it in 2018).
So, whom does this serve?
The move legalises cultivation for commercial and medical use, not recreational use. This means one can now legally cultivate hemp for producing fabrics, rope, makeup, skin care, accessories, furniture etc. It doesn’t legalise getting stoned for fun.
What it does legalise, however, is CBD products.
Remember the furore over CBD oil during the Sushant Singh Rajput death investigation? Unlike the dramatics surrounding it at the time, CBD oil is a coveted substance among wellness enthusiasts. And it’s not just CBD oil. From skincare to lubes, CBD is fast becoming the new omnipresent and omnipotent ingredient. The new super-ingredient, if you will.
Okay but what exactly is CBD and what does it have to do with marijuana cultivation?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol, a non psychotropic component extracted from hemp, a cousin of the cannabis plant. For context – when you get a high from smoking pot, it’s from the THC (tetrahedrocannabinol) in it. CBD doesn’t give you a high.
And guess what? CBD-based products are perfectly legal in India.
There are several companies already making and selling CBD-based products. But there’s a catch. The THC content must be lower than 0.3%.
Over the last few years, the use of CBD-based products has been on a steady rise in India. Shruti, 24-year-old, has been studying for her CA entrance exam. It’s one of the most difficult exams to crack, and unsurprisingly, Shruti has been under stress. She started using CBD oil a month ago and has only good things to say about it. ‘It’s really helping me to keep my cool while I study. It calms the nerves but it doesn’t make you drowsy or spaced out.’
Ayansh is an athlete who swears by CBD balm for sore muscles and inflammation. Every evening, after a long day of training, he massages the balm into his joints to keep them supple. If he has a pulled muscle or a mild injury, he reaches for CBD balm instead of relispray or the likes. ‘It’s absorbed better, I think. And it doesn’t sting like these sprays do. It feels good,’ he says.
Captain Amit Singh is a customer of the online store cbdstore.in . His testimony is shared on the website. He says: ‘Being in the army, we placed a demand for CBD oil from CBD India and soon found it to be of great quality. We instantaneously felt a very positive effect on taking the product when it came to issues of physical recovery and reduction in stress and anxiety that many of our soldiers fo through while carrying out operations. On a personal front, it has helped me in problems related to sleep and fatigue. I also feel that it helps me become a lot ore calmer and helps me in making sound decisions.’
There’s enough research to back the benefits of CBD
Below are some of the uses of CBD that have been validated by studies:
- As treatment for childhood epilepsy syndromes such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaur syndrome.
- Anxiety management
- Falling and staying asleep
- Lowering of inflammation and pain due to arthritis
- For prevention and treatment of acne
- Currently, more research is underway to understand the role of CBD in:
- Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s MS, Parkinson’s and stroke.
- Reducing pain in MS, spinal cord injuries and chronic illnesses.
- Management of cancer symptoms, side effects of chemo and slowing down growth of cancer cells.
As one can guess, some of the alleged benefits of CBD are anecdotal at this point. For example, even though CBD shows promise in cancer treatment, the research is conflicting. At this point, we don’t know for sure what type and dose of CBD would work well for cancer patients. Likewise, there is insufficient evidence for CBD’s use for treating or managing schizophrenia, nerve damage, bipolar disorder, or as an aid for quitting smoking.
Many advocates of CBD will tell you that it has no harmful effects. The argument used to lure a cynic is that it’s not going to hurt them. Well, yes, and no. There aren’t any major risks involved in the use of CBD, but like most substances or medicines, it can cause some side effects.
Side effects of CBD
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
But that’s not surprising. Everything we consume has some downfall. For example, while coconut water is treated as elixir for the body, little attention is paid to have too much of it and it puts you at risk of excessive levels of potassium.
CBD is a promising ingredient. But, we have a long way to go before its touted benefits can be validated by adequate clinical data.
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87