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  • Three major science administrators in India — the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnolgy — are getting together to promote research in herbal drugs, some of which involve deriving new drugs from marijuana.
  • The researchers will test whether strains of marijuana grown at the CSIR-IIIM campus in Jammu could be effective in the treatment of breast cancer, sickle-cell anaemia as well as be “bio-equivalent” (similar in make-up and effect) to marijuana-derived drugs already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

What is Marijuana?

  • Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical, recreational & religious purposes.
  • Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporization, within food, or as an extract.
  • It creates mental and physical effects, such as a “high” or “stoned” feeling, a general change in perception, and an increase in appetite.
  • Short term side effects may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.
  • Long term side effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability and behavioural problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy.

What is its historic significance in India?

  • Cannabis has been used since ancient times in India, dating back to 2000 BCE.
  • The cannabis plant has been mentioned as one of the five sacred plants in the Vedas.
  • Bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis, which is ‘consumed either in the form of a drink or smoked’ is common during the Hindu festivals of Holi and Mahashivaratri.

What are its medicinal qualities?

  • There has been no rigorous scientific testing of the medicinal properties of cannabis due to restrictive laws.
  • There is considerable evidence though, supporting its use in the treatment of chemotherapy – induced nausea and vomiting, neuropathic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Lower levels of evidence support its use for AIDS, wasting syndrome, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and glaucoma.

What is its legal status?

  • Marijuana (or hemp), more formally parts of the cannabis super-family, is illegal for commercial cultivation though it grows as weed in several parts of the country. Uttarakhand, Jammu and — as of this month Uttar Pradesh — have allowed restricted cultivation of the plant for medical research.
  • The possession, use, and sale of cannabis are illegal in most countries as a result of an agreement in the ‘International Opium Convention’ (1925).
  • Indian government banned the use of cannabis by passing the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act-1985.
  • The rigour of restrictive laws & its implementation varies greatly across countries.
  • Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and several U.S. states are some territories were medical use of cannabis is legal.
  • Netherlands (1976) & some US states (recently) have allowed for the recreational use of marijuana.

What do the doctors say?

  • The opinion among medical practitioners in India is divided.
  • Some are of the opinion that, it is a better alternative to alcohol & tobacco consumption.