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McConnell bill and how it can be transformed for implementation in India?

According to a report by Vote Hemp, U.S. states issued 16,877 hemp growing licenses in 2019, across 34 states, for a total of 511,442 licensed acres. The increase in hemp growing licenses reflects a massive increase in the number of hemp farmers and a growing awareness that hemp could be a profitable commodity crop. Vote Hemp reported a 455% increase over 2018 in the amount of acres licensed for legal hemp growing.

After 81 years, the 2018 Farm Bill represents the largest step towards undoing the racist and scientifically-baseless legacy of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill on 20th December’2018, which legalizes industrial hemp after decades of the crop being caught up in broader cannabis prohibition, into law. Hemp legalization, a provision of the bill championed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell received bipartisan support, with members on both sides. The Bill was easily passed in full floor votes after the House and senate Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions. The farm bill essentially legalized hemp by removing it from the definition of marijuana under federal drug laws.

McConnell’s goal was to spur hemp farming across the country and boost farmers in his home state of Kentucky who have been battered by a loss in federal tobacco subsidies. The Bill officially reclassifies hemp for commercial uses after decades of statutes and legal enforcement conflating hemp and marijuana, the Farm Bill distinguishes between the two by removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

Check the video to see Mitch McConnell delivering the remarks on the Senate regarding Farm Bill-

McConnell still takes a hard line against any reform in marijuana law, but Senater’s understanding of the hemp market, as well as his position of power and respect within the Republican party, has undeniably been the driving force behind this bipartisan effort to recognize the hemp industry.

According to the American Agriculturist, the 2018 Farm Bill will allow hemp to be regulated by the USDA, including the labeling of American-grown hemp as certified organic; interstate hemp commerce will be legalized; financing and research opportunities will open up; hemp farmers will be guaranteed water rights; the definition of hemp will be altered to make it a non-drug commodity.

The USDA aims to publish its proposed hemp regulations this fall and the FDA is trying to figure out how to regulate a compound that is already available as an FDA-approved pharmaceutical. While federal regulations prohibit CBD being added to food, supplements, and cosmetics, such products are widely available. CBD-rich hemp flowers often look and smell the same as marijuana flowers that are high in THC.

Building a healthy, sustainable hemp industry will depend on supporting the farmers. They need help learning to grow and harvest, and support to find buyers who offer fair prices for their crops. A growing number of agriculture training programs and practices are spreading across farming communities to spread knowledge of hemp.

Similar to the guidelines set by the Farm Bill in the U.S., India’s goal is for all hemp grown contains less than 0.3 percent THC. India’s Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) of 1985 allows state governments the freedom to establish their own policies in terms of commercial cultivation. That is, “as long as they provide verifiable scientific and operational evidence that hemp cultivated shall not be diverted for misuse.” This historic legislation was proposed by Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi, Patiala MP. The bill would call for the legalization of medical marijuana, as well as the regulation of cannabis and opium. It would act as an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

Since the passage of NDPS, this is the first instance of Parliament considering a MP’s bill as an amendment to the 1985 Act. That is, “as long as they provide verifiable scientific and operational evidence that hemp cultivated shall not be diverted for misuse.” The Act was passed partly due to global pressure from the Conventions on Drug Policy proposed by the United Nations, as well as the gaining steam of America’s War on Drugs.

Gandhi told the Hindustan Times that “the number of drug users arrested contributes to 88 percent of those jailed under NDPS,” while “traffickers and distributors are two percent (of arrests). No financers have been arrested. The drug mafia operates with impunity, increasing the scale of its operations.” Gandhi says it’s time to reevaluate the law, which lumps natural substances like marijuana in with cocaine and heroin.

Although the NDPS Act allows the state governments to grant permissions/licenses for the cultivation of hemp for specific purposes, the actual process of obtaining these permissions/licenses is far from easy. This is because of the absence of a standardized government route. For instance, there is no clarity on which state government departments are responsible for the granting of permissions to cultivate hemp. The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution only adds to this confusion. As per Entry 84 under List I of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, the Union government has the power to impose excise duties on medicinal or toilet preparations containing “Indian hemp”.

Still, there remain strict guidelines in accordance to the federal government. So much so, only two states in India — Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh — have developed an official set of policies governing the research and cultivation of hemp. Himachal Pradesh is on track to be the third state for the same. As per government regulations, the hemp grown in India can be processed for fibers only whereas America has reached to 34 states. It is very clear that India’s laws surrounding hemp have been a big looser than that of America’s for the past few decades. In some ways, hemp in India seems more diverse than the ever-growing CBD market here in America. Of course, these efforts can be seen as similar to America’s recent hemp accomplishments. However, the biggest difference is India’s been able to grow hemp legally since 1985, as long as all laws are followed.

Farmers in states such as Kentucky have been planting hemp since the 2014 Farm Bill opened up state-regulated pilot programs for planting “industrial hemp,” which it defined as cannabis sativa plants containing 0.3% or less THC—not enough to get anyone stoned.

The Farm Bill of U.S. stipulates that the hemp will be covered under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, meaning that in the event that a cultivator experiences crop loss, they will be entitled to insurance coverage in the same way that farmers for other legal agriculture products are which is a positive development for the farmers.

This bill offers a legal new path to growth for cannabis producers in the US. By some estimates, the CBD market is already a billion-dollar industry in the US. Passage of this bill opens the door for that market to greatly expand, offering revenue growth, funding for R&D and new products for consumers.

Thirty four years later, now that American states have shown the way, it is time to revisit the ban. When ganja, charas and bhang don't have obvious medical negatives and don't lead to addiction or violent behaviour, why then should not be legal as it was in India for centuries? Especially, when there is no social or cultural rejection of them.

Hemp’s ever-growing popularity in India is noteworthy. As is happening across the world, there’s a demand for organic materials and foods. India is no exception and many have been seeking out hemp’s eco-friendly material. Farmers in India have a precious relationship with the soil that is almost absent among farmers from other countries.

By cultivating hemp farmers in India will be able to foster this relationship and reap the benefits of a higher personal income while also simultaneously benefiting the Indian industry and the whole economy. It’s become increasingly evident to farming communities, government, and industry that hemp is a requirement for the heart of India’s next green revolution.

Activities around America are propelling other countries to take steps for hemp legalization, and India is evolving as the leader among the developing nations eagerly working to revitalise the centuries old industrial crop. Furthermore, the link between India’s historic culture and hemp is strong. This really can be the miracle crop that could revolutionise our agriculture, our economy, and even our environment.

In India, a land where hemp was an integral part of society and played a part in ceremonies in the past, hemp is now being rediscovered and being put to use to foster new industries. The plant has more than 30,000 uses to it and researchers are working to see how it could solve the cancer epidemic along with other health issues. Indian government should reframe policies related to hemp under the state legislature and should take positive steps to promote the cultivation of Hemp.

If India decides to legalize cannabis, the country will not just tap this opportunity but also find solutions to the agrarian crisis while creating jobs and increasing its revenue. It wouldn’t be exaggerated to say that we shall soon see India reclaim its natural piece at a leadership level within the global hemp industry with the input of modern technology to improve the quality of hemp and its base raw material.

As the United States Senate subsequently passed a historic Bill to legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp, we hope that India too recognizes the many advantages of hemp cultivation and makes the relevant policy changes to accommodate the growing demand for hemp-based products in India as well. We hope India would do well to simplify the process for obtaining permissions for hemp cultivation as our economy and environment have a lot to gain from the large-scale cultivation of hemp.

Why are countries that supported criminalizing Cannabis making it legal now? Why not use a renewable resource when it is so abundantly available? Let’s all support this cause because it will help the economy, give the public a healthier safer choice, help farmers achieve better standard of living, help medical patients get good quality medicine. Support this cause by joining our Himalayan Hemp Community.

-Himalayan Hemp


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