Reasons Why India Should Consider Legalizing Hemp The trillion dollar cash crop suffers back home

By Vanita D'souza

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Entrepreneur India

As the world accepts hemp as one of the super plants, which has a lot more to offer and is frowned upon due to its connotations with marijuana, don't you think it is time for India to consider legalizing hemp in the country?

Unlike marijuana, the THC content in the industrial hemp is much lower to cause any harm or in other words make you high.

If you are still wondering why India needs to revise its policy with regards to hemp, Entrepreneur India gives you reasons to think beyond the happy high moments and learn about the numerous uses of the plant that can address complex issues like climate change.


Agriculture is an important part of the Indian economy but the contribution of the sector is deteriorating creating the need the innovate and experiment within the segment.

Rohit Sharma, President and Founder, Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) says hemp can solve several of agriculture sector's issues related to sustainability as the plant is extremely strong, hardy and robust crop.

"It's the only crop that can easily flourish with only moderate amounts of water, minimal pesticides or herbicides and minimum fertilizer. Industrial hemp is also a rotational crop. It can be grown on barren lands in hilly areas and plain lands alike with limited resources," he said

Additionally, most of the Indian farmers have small land holdings less than even one acre which is why the returns are invariably low. However, if one has to compare the return with industrial hemp, the returns are much higher.

Giving an example, Sharma added on an acre of land hemp crop will generate two times more fibre compared to cotton. Also hemp fibres stronger and softer as compared to cotton and will last much longer as well. Cotton requires a moderate climate and lots of water to grow.

"Considering industrial hemp is a multi-beneficial crop and all the parts of crop come with a utility. It has 30,000 products in the world market currently being sold. A farmer-friendly policy by the State Governments towards industrial hemp cultivation will impact the lives of small landholders immensely," he pointed out.

Low Carbon Footprint

Another important consideration for the hemp crop is its low carbon footprint which is a major concern among all the global economies, including India.

Tarun Jami, Founder & Managing Partner - GreenJams Infrastructures says since its cultivation does not require the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, the yield itself is organic and sustainable, creating a solid foundation in environmental sustainability for the products made from it.

"Furthermore, hemp is used to make building materials, edible oils, fuel oils, foods and so on, all of which build upon its superior environmental sustainability," he said while adding that, "Hempcrete, a building material made from the hemp stalk and a lime binder is carbon-negative, sequestering at least 250 kg of carbon dioxide per cubic metre."

Upper Hand on the International Textile Industry

The Indian market is also considered one of the most important markets in the textile industry, which constitutes 14 per cent of the industrial production and 13 per cent of exports. However, the domestic market faces a serious threat from other South Asian countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc,

Shikha Shah, Co-founder, Fibre Labs, who raises concern about how a lot of textile business is flowing out of China owing to its anti-pollution policies and divergence to other industries, believes that hemp can help the Indian textile industry flourish.

"This business can be eyed by India better than other textile countries with natural fibres. We import 12000 crores of natural fibres in spite of having the ability to grow. A policy boost to encouraging hemp would also kick in the ability to process similar underutilized fibres like banana, nettle etc," the shepreneur shared.

Competition with China

Presently, China holds 70 per cent of the share in the international hemp fibre market while on the other side, there is high demand in the export market for the plant and its allied products like medicine, fibre and seed. With a policy relaxation, industries like bioplastics, herds from bioethanol, construction material, cosmetics, fibre, food, pharma, pulp, etc can get a great push.

Even IIHA President's opinion echoed with that of Shah as he shares that India is currently at the centre stage of the industrial hemp market especially in terms of policy revisions.

"Hemp is a traditional plant of India and a gift to mankind. While the world is benefiting from its medicinal and economic benefits, the trillion dollar cash crop suffers in its homeland. Industrial hemp legalization and policy correction is the need of the hour for the Indian economy which will further ease out the concerns of farmers, MSMEs and exporters. Essentially the sectors which require a much-needed boost in the prevailing times," he asserted.

Vanita D'souza

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

I am a Mumbai-based journalist and have worked with media companies like The Dollar Business Magazine, Business Standard, etc.While on the other side, I am an avid reader who is a travel freak and has accepted foodism as my religion.

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