Medicinal Cannabis


    In News

    • In a bid to strengthen its position in the global medical cannabis industry, Indian pharmaceutical major Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has said that it will acquire German firm Nimbus Health. 
      • Nimbus has been a major player in the field of cannabis-based medicines.


    • The company will be operating under the brand Nimbus Health and as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dr Reddy’s.
    • Cannabis is increasingly used to address and treat high unmet medical needs, especially in pain management and CNS.

    Global demand of medicinal cannabis

    • The demand for medical cannabis has increased over the past few years following its legalization in 2017.
    • The medical cannabis market in Germany witnessed a growth of about 25 per cent in 2021 when compared to 2020, and a CAGR of close to 55 per cent since 2017, making it one of the largest markets in Europe.
    • Globally, the legal cannabis market is expected to reach an estimated valuation of $146.4 billion by 2025-end.
    • A recent study pegged the market size of medical cannabis at $176 billion by 2030 as various countries are considering legalizing it.

    Status of medical cannabis in India

    • In India, while trade and consumption of cannabis is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985, calls for legalizing its use for medicinal purposes have grown stronger over the years.
    • Cannabis is not completely prohibited in the country as its medical and scientific use is allowed after obtaining necessary permissions from state governments.
    • In 2018, Uttarakhand had become the first state in the country to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crops. A year later, the Madhya Pradesh government also did the same.


    • Involvement of major pharmaceutical and biotechnology players in this segment is expected to bring in the necessary muscle to deal with regulatory hindrances.
    • Historic significance: Plant was most likely brought to India by Aryan migrants between 1000 and 2000 BC. It is treated as a sacred plant in the Vedas, considered a source of joy. The Hindu god Shiva is revered as the Lord of Bhang.
    • Countering Covid-19: There are reports to suggest that cannabinoids helped in countering the impact of Covid-19.
    • NDPS Act: The petition has challenged provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act which prohibit the use of cannabis and has contended that the drug has medicinal and industrial benefits.
      • There is no complete ban on cannabis under NDPS Act but can be used for medical, scientific, industrial, horticultural purposes by taking requisite permissions from respective State Governments.
      • Under the NDPS Act, there was a clear distinction between the various parts of a cannabis plant, namely the fiber, flower and the seed and does not treat all of them and their derivatives equally.
    • Did not violate fundamental rights: The central government stated that the present legal framework regulating the usage of cannabis did not violate Articles 14 (right to equality), 19(1) (g) [freedom of trade], 21 (right to life or other fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
    • Not harmful: There is not a single document which shows that it was lethal to humans and emphasizes the use of cannabis was legal in several other countries.
    • Overall benefits: The legalization of marijuana can help create jobs, battle stress, improve human concentration, resolve medical problems and provide sustainable agricultural incomes, among other things.
    • Country’s cultural fabric: Cannabis is integral to the country’s cultural fabric; its criminalisation leads to needless harassment and stigma.
    • Government stands to benefit: Given India’s production capacity of cannabis, the government stands to benefit in terms of tax.
      • India alone accounted for 6 percent of the world’s cannabis herb seizures in 2016 and even higher quantities in 2017, a 20 per cent increase compared to 2016, as per a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.


    • Hurdles: While countries are legalizing the use of medical cannabis, varying rules and regulations present hurdles for companies in building a global market.
    • Some regulators have also given a cold shoulder to such treatment protocols because many players rely on experimental approaches for administration of cannabis products.
    • Cannabinoids are not a first-line treatment: Cautioned against the huge risk of diversion of cannabis for non-medical use. 
    • Bhang: An edible preparation of cannabis is not controlled under the NDPS Act.
    • It May Affect Your Mental Health: Not everyone’s experience with marijuana is pleasant. It often can leave you anxious, afraid, panicked, or paranoid. Using marijuana may raise your chances for clinical depression or worsen the symptoms of any mental disorders you already have.
    • It May Impair Your Brain: Marijuana can make it harder for you to focus, learn, and remember things. This seems to be a short-term effect that lasts for 24 hours or longer after you stop smoking.
    • Lungs May hurt: Marijuana smoke can inflame and irritate your lungs. If you use it regularly, you could have the same breathing problems as someone who smokes cigarettes.
    • Newborn Might Be Underweight: Mothers who smoke pot while pregnant face a higher risk of giving birth to underweight or premature babies.

    Way Forward

    • Further, with numerous studies being conducted to leverage and introduce medical cannabis, we believe this is a must-be field for future healthcare delivery.
    • Erasing the stigma: Legalizing marijuana can help reduce addictive behavior by erasing the stigma around it.
    • No scientific study: However, there is no scientific study yet to conclusively prove that legalizing cannabis leads to a healthier relationship with drugs and substance abuse.

    Source: IE