Mumbai-based company to participate in first legal project to grow cannabis and study its medicinal properties for use in treatment of epilepsy and cancer
The Bombay Hemp Company. Pic/BOHECO
After all the talk surrounding medical marijuana, or cannabis, since Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi suggested last week that it be legalised, India has taken its first step forward in the matter.
The government has issued the first-ever licence to grow and study the medicinal properties of cannabis, and it’s a Mumbai-based firm - the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) - that will pioneer the research along with the Council of Scientific and Medical Research (CSIR). The study will take place in Jammu & Kashmir, where researchers will grow 20 different accessions of medical cannabis that have been collected from different parts of the country.
“We have collected more than 100 accessions for chemical profiling and have identified 20 of these based on physiological features, which are the ones we want to cultivate,” said Avnish Pandya, co-founder of BOHECO.
The collaborative project has been in the pipeline for the past six months, although the collection of accessions has been going on for two years.
Dr Ram Vishwakarma, director of CSIR-IIM, Jammu, said, “This is the first legal licence given to any medical research institute in India for research and development on cannabis. I started the process two years ago, and it was only a few months back that we finally succeeded in obtaining a licence from J&K.”
Pandya pointed out the aim was to “develop medicine from cannabis.” He added, “It won’t be raw cannabis; it will be an actual product in the form of extracts, pills, and patches.”
“Modern science has reached a point where we can create safe medicines sans toxicity. India is going to adopt a different model from the US, where we are going to look at it from a health perspective first, and not mix it with the recreational side of the plant.”
‘Crucial for country’
Describing the need for medical cannabis as “the most important unmet medical need in the country right now,” Vishwakarma said their first effort was to select a variety of cannabis that is rich in cannabidiol (CBD) — the medicinal component that is not psychoactive.
“All drugs obtained from this plant have an important medical ingredient called cannabidiol, but the plant itself has been banned because of another component, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The research that has been coming out of the USA and Europe in the last decade confirms that most of the pharmaceutical activity comes from CBD, while the habit-forming and psychoactive activity comes from THC,” he said, adding, “Once this clarity has come, regulators have now started allowing this to be used for conditions like epilepsy in children. Also, for terminal cancer patients, instead of using morphine, we can use CBD.”
Number of accessions of cannabis that will be studied
No. of years spent collecting the different accessions