It’s stigma seems to be evaporating rapidly on Indian turf. From an intoxicating agent provocateur to an alternative cure for creaky joints, insomnia, anxiety and other urban health disorders, cannabis has finally arrived in a slick avatar, bottled in essential oils. It’s become a #shelfiegoal2022, having a CBD oil-powered curative potion to zap away your health niggles. Hemp products have clearly jumped the erstwhile hump of reservations and misconceptions, on the alternative medicine bandwagon. The cannabis economy is growing.
The medicinal properties of the plant find specific mentions in ancient Vedic literature. The Atharva Veda cups cannabis as a cure for many illnesses. The Sushruta Samhita, dated between the third and eighth centuries BCE, advocated the use of cannabis for phlegm and diarrhoea. Yet, with our common perceptions of ganja on the ghats, clay chillums being passed around in clouds of smoke, and hashish taking over senses, the country has been silently continuing ‘psychoactive’ cultivation of hemp, a cousin of the marijuana, often with religious and medicinal accents.
The acceptability of the versatile hemp is finally gaining well-deserved ground, with cannabis-powered wellness products being sold online, and emerging as bestsellers in the space. “When we started out, we had to explain why wearing a hemp shirt would not get one intoxicated. Today, people of all generations buy our products and opt to heal themselves holistically through a natural source,” says Yash Kotak, co-founder of Mumbai-based BOHECO Bombay Hemp Company.
Cannabis provides therapeutic healing and nutrition, and with over 25,000 ways in which one can use this one plant, it is a solution provided by the most sustainable and environmentally friendly resource. “This is definitely just the beginning. We still have miles to go to unleash the potential and with the right kind of R&D practices, the world is our oyster,” says Chirag Tekchandaney, co-founder of BOHECO, adding, “Over the last two years, revenue from operations has grown by over 25 percent. Before this, we were operating with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 93 percent. The hemp fibre and hemp seed segments are expected to witness considerable CAGRs of 27 percent and 25 percent, respectively, during the forecast period.
The cumulative share of these two segments was 47.6 percent in 2019 and is anticipated to reach 50.1 percent by 2027. We also export our products to over 10 countries but the largest chunk of our D2C audience is from India. Our repeat purchase is highest in the category with over 43 percent of our audience coming back for more. That says a lot.” This sudden shift has emerged prominently since the lockdowns, prompting more start-ups in the space. Cannabis has now found more acceptance, achieving ‘medicinal herb’ overtones, compared to the intoxication source it was dubbed as earlier.
There was a time when the arrival of a CBD oil-infused preparation at home would have our loved ones freak out. They thought we were doing drugs. Now, those same people are using it for its many therapeutic purposes. There has been an overall softening of attitude. More players are hitting boomtown today. “The growth rate of this industry is directly pegged to the awareness about the legality, availability and benefits of this plant,” says Richa Jaggi, Co-founder, Awshad, launched last year. “I feel this softening of attitude can be directly linked to the growing popularity of cannabis all around the world. Countries like the USA and Canada started the movement of destigmatising cannabis and funded various research to learn more about it.
They uncovered two things: The plant has various medicinal properties, and its properties were misrepresented,” she adds. Clearly, the learning is spreading. Loveena Sirohi, Co-founder and Director of Bengaluru-based India Hemp Organics, says, “At IHO, our growth rate has been 200 percent year on year. We have seen a diverse age group of people adopting hemp and cannabis products into their lifestyles. Today, our oldest patient is of 94 years, consuming the Sleep Well CannaBliss Oil on a daily basis for enhanced sleep.” She adds, “With the Covid-19 outbreak, cannabis helped combat a wide array of ailments, including depression and anxiety that increased during the lockdown, through cannabis-based medicinal oils.”
The format and use of the products woos a cross-section of the population through oils, balms, creams. “They are used to manage pains, inflammation, arthritis, pimples, eczema, itchy skin and more,” says Jaggi, adding, “Cannabis edibles like tinctures and gummies are more geared towards men and women over the age of 18, suffering from insomnia, stress, anxiety, chronic pains, gut health issues etc. People suffering from epilepsy or those going through chemotherapy swear by this product.” With the industry experiencing a big win in the FSSAI adopting and recognising hemp, hale and hearty the natural way is the way to go. But a word of caution: The Cannabis leaf falls under a Schedule E-1 drug, as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 and any medicine containing schedule E-1 substance must be taken under medical supervision.
THE HOLY TRUTH
✥ Look for the licensed stamp from the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, on the products
✥ Cannabis-powered medicinal products are safe to use, and non-addictive, especially if taken under medical supervision
✥ The expensive tags can be attributed to the challenging supply chain as hemp is farmed mainly in Uttarakhand on the Himalayan foothills