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.