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How Convenient it is for Entrepreneurs to start Hemp Business with Existing Hemp Policies in India? he super crop that poses multiple benefits across an array of industry verticals can greatly strengthen Indian agro-economy

By Rohitt Sharrma

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The most versatile, ancient and cultural plant of India is finally regaining the lost glory. The miraculous crop which is base of a trillion dollar industry with utility in over 30,000 products faced deterrent prohibitory laws for decades across the world, including India for its erroneous misconception with Marijuana. With the newly found spurt of hemp industry that began with industrial hemp cultivation permit by the Uttarakhand state government in India, MSMEs, Startups, and young entrepreneurs have found a new horizon to venture and succeed in.

The super crop that poses multiple benefits across an array of industry verticals can greatly strengthen Indian agro-economy. Hemp can rocket the industrial growth with phenomenal opportunities for entrepreneurs to venture into this futuristic industry. Today, the existing hemp community in India is thriving to succeed. Positive changes in the industrial hemp policy can pave the path for the evolution of successful "Hempreneurs' contributing to sustainable economic growth of the nation.

Why Venture into Industrial Hemp?

The plant from cannabis sativa family that contains a very low amount of psychoactive substance i.e. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can open a whole new business horizon for aspiring entrepreneurs. Hemp can produce fibre, grain, fuel, food, oils, proteins, and CBDs (Cannabinoids), which can further be supplemented as economic, efficient, and quality raw material for thousands of products across industries. From medicine and nutrition to textiles, bio-plastics, biofuel, paper, hempcrete, and food products, this millennia-old crop has the potential for building a circular economy with affirmative growth for entrepreneurs and industries.

This incredible plant is extremely sustainable. It takes nearly 50per cent less water and land for commercial production in comparison to BT cotton. This environment saviour plant is used to not just eliminate pesticides effects, soil remediation, weeding fields, and bio-absorption of heavy metals and contaminants but also to control atmospheric CO2. It has been scientifically proven that 1 ton of hemp removes 1.63 tons of CO2 from the air. Ahead, hemp is the best solution for forest preservation in the context of paper and fuel productions.

Owing to the prospects that this multi-beneficial plant possesses, all economies of the world are actively taking steps to break the stigma and legalizing hemp production to boost their businesses. With Uttarakhand taking lead, states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are also coming forward to disrupt the prevailing policies and to pave a path for skilled entrepreneurs of India to grow, prosper, and strengthen Indian economy.

The Present Challenges from Indian Hemp Policies

The existing policy framework for Indian hemp industry finds its roots in the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act of 1985. The legacy of the British Rule has kept Industrial Hemp – the cultural plant of India at bay until recently because of its similarities with psychoactive plants having high THC levels (4-5per cent and higher) like a weed.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs is the governing authority at the state and centre level for investigating and granting permission for production of Industrial Hemp with THC lower than 0.3. The cultivation and production of hemp fall under the state list, therefore, the proliferation of entrepreneurial activities in the hemp industry comes under state government purview. As of now, the Uttarakhand government has permitted the use of only seed and fibre prohibiting the use of flower, leaf, and stem of industrial hemp, which constitutes a major plant production.

Furthermore, the biggest obstacle for the cultivation of industrial hemp and the production of raw material for hemp industries is – land acquisition. The dark side of cannabis (with high psychoactive THC levels) and deterrent rules have created a social stigma amongst the public and the government, which has resulted in obstructions in the growth of this industry. For commercial cultivation and growth of the hemp industry, the plantation needs to be done on a large scale but the less availability of land is hindering this growth.

Despite the odds, the miraculous plant has shown its true potential to the world, with India being no exception. The wave of policy reforms and hemp adoption has begun. This is the high time for entrepreneurs to come ahead and leverage the potential of this trillion dollar industry.

An Optimistic Framework envisaging the Growth of Hemp Entrepreneurs

Knowledge is the key to success. People must understand the bigger vision and proactively support this industry. Alternatively, futuristic entrepreneurs must begin the groundwork and learn the industry. Hemp is a knowledge-intensive industry, where innovation can open new horizons. Entrepreneurs should fasten the belts in advance if they look forward to excelling in the hemp industry by 2020-22. The diverse product application and incredible environmental benefits of hemp can help in building a sustainable future that the UN has also aimed in "Agenda: 2030'.

This is a clarion call for state governments to take strong measures and help "Hempreneurs' to lead the economic development of the nation. The permitted THC level and plant usage must be changed to optimally benefit the industry, including farmers and entrepreneurs. Scientifically, for a cannabis plant to possess psychoactive properties, it must have THC level 4per cent to 5per cent or above. Thus, hemp cultivated with THC level prescribed under the limit should be put to complete use including the flower, leaf, and stem. Alongside, the THC level for permission of hemp cultivation should be looked at to increase to 1per cent to 1.5per cent, which will help to flourish the industry. This will not only benefit farmers, who can earn from all parts of the plants but will also help entrepreneurs with an increased supply of raw material.

Land Reforms

Land reforms are the need of the hour to prepare the base of this future industry of hemp. Against the prevailing situation, where land availability is a major problem for hemp cultivation, state governments should step ahead and provide land clusters for hemp cultivation and should also motivate farmers to take on the cultivation. The prevailing long and tiresome paperwork for permits of industrial hemp cultivation has also made farmers and landowners reluctant and apathetic towards this plant. The government must take strong measures to ensure speedy, timely, and hassle-free permits to encourage farmers to take industrial hemp cultivation on a large scale. This will further generate better employment opportunities for the Uttarakhand youth, who have become city dwellers in the recent past and will resolve the critical issue of Uttarakhand ghost villages.

Dealing With the Authorities

Although the decision of appointing excise department as the administrative authority is completely in sync with positive policy framework yet the policy amendments and the inclusion of leading hemp research organizations as nodal agencies will take the hemp industry in India in the right direction. Leading Indian organization that are pivoting the hemp cultivation projects across states and strongly lobbying the hemp industry, should be recommended by the government also as standard consultancy firms for entrepreneurs aiming to enter this multi-million industry.

The millennia-old crop, which has been at the epicentre of Indian civilization, must be brought back into the mainstream for rightful economic growth of Indian economy. Today, when developed nations like the US, Canada, and China are soaring high in the hemp industry, Indian entrepreneurs must step ahead and take the lead. A nation, where nearly 58per cent of the population thrives on agriculture for livelihood, adoption of hemp industry by Indian entrepreneurs can really do wonders.

Rohitt Sharrma

Founder & President, Indian Industrial Hemp Association

Sharrma, Founder and President of the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) He is working for over & years in the field of Industrial hemp-based Economy development in India and across borders. This includes Industrial Hemp Fiber, Nutrients, Oil, Medicines, biomass feedstock, Insulation, Eco- Construction material, bio-based plastics and composite
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