Marijuana cultivation in India permitted for research and medicine, but nutraceuticals remain left out –

In November last year, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM, a government research body) announced it was developing three ‘natural' cannabis-based drugs to treat patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy and sickle-cell anaemia.

The first clinical trials will be conducted on 25 terminally ill cancer patients at Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital after the authorities granted regulatory approval for human testing of the drugs, according to the hospital’s director, Rajendra Badwe.

CSIR-IIIM director Ram Vishwakarma also revealed that researchers had already started testing on small animals using a Himalayan marijuana plant variety low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but high in cannabidiol (CBD).

Researchers have also reported positive results from a clinical study on the restorative effects of cannabis on cancer patients. The study, conducted by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (part of India's AYUSH ministry of traditional medicine), was the first of its kind in India.

Director-general Vaidya KS Dhiman told Indian press that the pilot study had shown that drugs based on cannabis leaves could effectively relieve pain and other symptoms in cancer patients after chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Legislation on cultivation

The CSIR-IIIM's research may lead to the drugs being available within the next year or so, but the regulatory restrictions surrounding medical marijuana in India still present a major obstacle to nutraceutical firms keen on tapping into a growing area of research and consumer interest.