Cong government plans to legalize hemp cultivation to boost Himachal economy

Opium, an extract of the poppy, is in high demand from the pharmaceutical industry, the climatic conditions of the state are favorable for its cultivation

A section of growers in Himachal Pradesh have called for the cultivation of cannabis as an alternative crop to be legally permitted, as fruit crops are subject to climatic vagaries every year. In addition, strong competition from cheaper imported apples has severely affected their income.

To meet the demand of the growers and especially of the State which suffers from a heavy financial debt of more than 75 billion rupees, the Congress government led by Prime Minister Sukhvinder Sukhu plans to legalize the controlled cultivation of hemp for medicinal purposes to foster economic growth, primarily to strengthen the rural economy, as well as to divert illicit vendors from the market.

Experts have told IANS that the selective cultivation of cannabis could generate an annual revenue of 800-1000 billion rupees.

According to them, the pharmaceutical industry is in high demand for opium, an extract of the poppy. In addition, the climatic conditions of the state are favorable for its cultivation.

States like Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have also allowed the selective cultivation of poppy, which has gone a long way in boosting the rural economy.

In Himachal Pradesh, the wild poppy grows in the alpine regions of the Himalayas along glacial streams at elevations between 12000 and 18000 feet.

"Controlled cultivation of cannabis would provide remunerative incomes to apple growers who are solely dependent on them for their income," said Ramesh Singta, a major apple grower in Jubbal, Shimla's main apple growing area.

“Given that most apple plantations need rejuvenation, which is an expensive proposition, legalized opium cultivation will pay off a lot,” he added.

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Another grower, Naresh Dhaulta, told IANS that opium cultivation would help to curb the illegal cultivation of the plant, which even grows naturally in the wild.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Indian opium has a great advantage over Turkish and Iranian opium, as Turkish opium contains on average less than one percent codeine, and Iranian opium about 2,5 per cent, while Indian opium, in addition to its high morphine content, contains an average of 3,5 per cent codeine.

According to law enforcement authorities, cannabis and opium fields are illegally cultivated over large swathes of Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Chamba districts, resulting in a serious problem of drug cultivation, trafficking and consumption.

In Kullu district, cannabis planting is limited to malana heights, Kasol and other areas, while in Chamba district, which borders Doda region in Jammu and Kashmir, it is mainly done in the remote areas of Kehar, Tissa and Bharmour.

More than 60% of poppy and cannabis produced in Himachal Pradesh is smuggled.

Tags : IndiaLaw

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