The beauty of the culture of Uttarakhand resides in its traditions and the traditions embrace the optimum utility of the supercrop, cannabis. The controversial plant was banned in India in 1985 through an act known as the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. It was an outcome of nearly 25 years of constant pressure by USA to make cannabis illegal, to which the then Rajeev Gandhi government obliged in 1985.
In 2015 the Great Legalization movement India (a non-profit organization) was working to legalise the use of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes in India. Three years down the road, Uttarakhand became the first state in India to legalize the cultivation of hemp in 2018. Legally, one can acquire license to grow hemp with the THC content no more than .03%. The then Chief Minister also expressed hope that the growing demands for bio-fibre could lift the rural economy of the state.
Cannabis in Himalaya has always been a means of living. Ancient practices of rubbing the plant resin by hands or securing the buds and seeds of the plant have been local methods of preserving the wonder crop for winters which would cease to grow during heavy snowfalls in the Himalayas. This not only provided people warmth but kept them distant from catching diseases and helped maintain immunity in harsh winters.
Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is mentioned in the Atharva Veda as one of the five most sacred plants and that a guardian angel lived on its leaves. Our Vedas acknowledge cannabis as a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help attain delight and lose fear. It is still offered in temples, the same way flowers are. In the Hindu mythology, bhaang is greatly associated with Lord Shiva.
Hemp is conventionally used in Uttarakhand for it's a rich source of high-quality fibre and a host of medicinal and nutritive products. The seeds of the plant are held in high regard and are put to various uses. One of its most common applications is the flavoursome bhaang ki chutney that is consumed with fondness all across the state. Hemp seeds are also used to make bhaang ka namak. The art of consuming hemp in different means and manners has been a part of Himalayan culture.
Away from the obvious products, hemp also has a history of serving as a great source of fibre. Hemp fibre was widely used in the Himalayas during trade with Tibet and Bhutan. Special footwear for easily walking on snowy surfaces, ropes, small bags, and covers for oxen mouth were commonly used products made from hemp fibre. In today's date, Uttarakhand sources out some of the best quality hemp fibre for industrial estate.
The undertone of hemp legalization in Uttarakhand lies in the opportunities of self-employment in the rural areas for the farmers. They can refurbish what was lost in the 1980s. The economical and ecological boon of the crop is a way to considerable income for the poor farmers of the region. The fact that it requires minimum input (in terms of pesticides or water or even land) and gives off maximum output, is a generous add to the earnings.
Hemp in Himalaya has been essential from the cultural point of view and the taboo associated with its sister plant, Marijuana has caused it much dismay. But with the informed internet today, hemp in Uttarakhand has greater chances of climbing back to its erstwhile locus.