Indic Talks

Marijuana Myths — A Talk By Abhitosh Tripathi

Shri. Abhitosh Tripathi shares the story of a dioecious flowering plant Hemp or Marijuana, it’s medicinal and business uses and sheds light on its past and present.

Used for centuries in India in forms such as bhang, this was discovered by the Western world only after 1498. There is plethora of anecdotal evidence and research work that now propounds the benefits and medicinal uses of this plant. It’s two key ingredients THC and CBD are said to be useful in curing illness such as of cancer, alzheimers and parkinsons to name a few.Considered the plant that conquers all, it was called Vijaya!

A phenomenally fast and high growth plant, perfect for cash crop plants. Every part of this tree can be utilized and it is very amenable to industrial usage. Seeds of Marijuana are a superfood richer than prevalent Omega 3 alternatives. It’s stalk and fibers can be used to produce materials such as rope, clothing, plywood, concrete and even bio-fuel. The use and versatility of this billion dollar plant, threatened other industries eventually leading to it being banned in USA in 1938 with follow-on effects on rest of the world and India.

Trnascript: –

Thank you very much, It is really a great pleasure and I thank Rahul and Srijan foundation for giving this opportunity to share my ideas with you. Now over the history.., many substances or certain goods become very important and then they make impact on the human history. Just give an example. What is one of the most important substance which are impacting the geopolitical issues in society very much? Anybody in audience would care to answer?

Similarly in 18th century it was something two things was very important. One was OPIUM which was exported from India to china and British interest was to trying to leverage the Indian hegemony, to make their Chinese hegemony successful, by using OPIUM.  So it was very important substance at that time, and many people will be surprised to know that some of the crops which now also are holding a very huge sway over the global interest, global movements and global thoughts were born out of this OPIUM trade. So for instance Rostshiled and Rockefellers were involved the group which I were, for TATA even some of the old TATA people were involved in this OPIUM trade. Now I will leave it to your judgment desk to what will you call them in the modern context?

So similarly another goods or substance which very important that time was cotton, India was a cotton behemoth and we were exporting enough cotton to have as much as 27% of market share of in the world economy, in the declining time of India, which is about 1757, when the battle of Plassey has happen, which is last vestige. Mughal empire is also going, 1857 it was only token is for mughal empire.  Between 1757 to 1857 and India was exporting something like 60 % of that of 27 in the form cotton, rest was spices and certain other traditional stuff which was always export from India.

So this is nothing, this was not rocket science. Actually, basic needs air, water, food, shelter, clothing these are always important in the human context in believing. So in this context, in this overall large, but some loosely define teamwork, I wish to talk about, hemp or marijuana plant. This is botanically known as the three main strains of this, Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis, and they have different, but similar properties.

I am not a botanist and  I don’t want to go get in to contumacy and pernickety and nitpicking of technical botanical aspects, the idea has to give you the general characteristics of this plant to increase our knowledge and  familiarity about this plant. So these are the botanical quantization’s they forms under cannabis.

More about the plant  —

This is all some people would want to know, categorize it under the text of only cannabis, but some people would want to know categorize it under the cannabis sativa only, with certain variations, which I touch up on it as we go on. This is of less interest, this is just to build the background, and this is indigenous to India and Indian subcontinent. When I say India, I mean the large old general bigger India.  To some extent the northern side of India, but northern side of India doesn’t extent. So for, very essentially that, certain countries like that step. A country of whole Russia not much grows there in any case. So it is indigenes to India and that is important from the point of view, what this plant could have done for India.  If we would actually unfolded in different way, then the things unfolded has given touch up on.

Then it is a dioecious flowering herb. Now what we are mean by dioecious? Essentially there are two type of plants – one which is having both genders are found, in within the same pant and it polidrate across, and in some plants, the male plant separately and the female plant which is separately growing. So this hemp or marijuana plant belong to this category of dioecious plants, and now there is a very interesting fact, the male plant give you, what is very popular consumed culturally which we call as ‘bhang’. Thus the female plant which gives you the marijuana smog, which is very popular in western sub culture of sixties, although in India it has been popular for centuries it was used in certain way which we will again touch up on.

So I have explained the other plants which are hermaphroditism, so which means both specious within the same plant specimen and then to compensate for this particular variation, the trees develop certain strain. It is assumed that the female plant will produce lot more seeds, so that its spreads and has seen that this plant has been overcome these problems. I know from my early childhood; I spent a lot of time in Utharakhand and I saw whole jungle plants growing in the mountain slopes. It has been able to overcome the problem of reproduction and spread and it was the wonderful plant in that sense, because was able to grow completely from budding to about in 7 or 8 feet height in about nine weeks’ time, in general, which is phenomenal growth only. My knowledge in botany is limited but I have checked in some extent. Only bamboos are able to grow faster than certain other trees. But this belongs to those fast growing, high growth kind of plant. So naturally it belongs to those kinds of plant which look for crash cropping of various kinds. Now cultural aspects this is known to us. This sativa leads marijuana grass, weed, ganja etc. It is very beloved of western liberal universities, researchers, students, musicians etc. It is the lifeblood of that too. I studied from Kerala, there are two grasses are, world famous are – Assam grass and Malabar grass.

So male plant, that I told, yields ‘Bhang’, and I found again from experience with things and perhaps you can do more research. Whatever is used in India for any kind of worship, is immediately suspect for a greater research. So, for instance, ‘Bhang’. Bhang again has faced less research. Actually, what will talk about little more of the about the female plant for medicinal purpose and both plant for other industrial purpose. And in India, for instance very well spread subculture of usage.

So for instance Banaras where people are generally very care free, just we want a Bhunji and bhang . So Bhunji means something roasted and given to you as dried sank, and then bhang to top it up and then they even need anything. They actually, another is essential part.  So that they do not need much to ware, as long as the secreted   red that is good adornment also. So, I am touching upon this as part of being in deeply in grahanya nina subculture.

And very interest thing you will see in the third bullet point. This supplant will unifies the problems which are very much in relief nowadays. In the popular debate, which the Sikhs use it, the Sufi use it, and Hindus use it. As I have told already, it has always been associated with worship of lord Shiva and most of the adherent of Shiva and of Shaivites. They have invariably consumed bhang in various ways  and one of the most beautiful thing which I found is, I probably, I will try and discover more facts on it. This plant is called Vijaya, and in Ayurvedic text I have tried to explore. But they are difficult to search.  Vijaya is another name of goddess. So it has been directly and the female part has been directly associated with goddess and male part has been directly associated with  god and these are all aliments which are give us a skew or a clue for exploring the theme much better and this is one of the main aim may I in this talk also , may be some of the younger people have actually explore the subject in lot more detail way .

Industrial and business use —

I was somehow very keen to avoid some of the detailed technical kind of presentation. But this plant is having many wonderful properties from these prospects. One which I mention is that this grows very fast, it doesn’t need much attention, it will probably grow towards the end of rainy season and carry on to till the winter. It doesn’t like too much of water. So wherever water is stagnant it will rot and it not go. But wherever water flows over the rain, it grows very faster. It needs water, but it need water the way the human being needs water, that we take a bath, but then that’s the end of it.

So medicinally I have seen  at least hundred and fifty papers talking about different medicinal aspects of marijuana plant, two very important ingredient which are there and this, which are obtained out of the  marijuana aliment, which is essentially the flowing budding aliment of the female part is used for that. They extract two oils, one is THC and another is CBD. THC is the psychotropic part which gives you the high, mark my word carefully, while it is psychotropic and gives you high, it not a narcotic, it is not addict in a way heroine will addict, which I again, I will bring your attention to my previous disclaimer, in no way I will support.

And CBD is other part, which is also medicinal and has many use, and again people have researched and it will be very easy to read that research. Just give a goggle about marijuana oil or THC use in cancer, or medicinal use of marijuana plant etc. and you got a plenty of information including scientific papers.  I have seen about hundred and fifty myself, and off course there you will find opposing view  also, which is fine. This is the way of research. But in general, there are lot of amend, total evidence and scientific evidence that the plant does having plenty of medicinal uses. So people have reported recovery of third and fourth stage cancers by use of that, people have reported of various parts, we know that the metabolisms, the spread of cancer of different type happen, differently the treatment follow different track in so as so. In general, use of THC and CBD has been successful either reducing the symptoms or even going to the extend, people reported the cured of it also.

And similarity, it is also used for stopping the age of brain. Alzheimers, you know, the forgetfulness problem. It also helpful in shaking policy, somebody give the name of Parkinson syndrome or disease in that, one of the answer first from it and I proposed you should try it and such as the stigmata now created with it and she flatly refused it, that I am happy the way I am. I will leave in a problem, but will not use any of these things. So, this I say only as an example that the way narratives are build. It hurts your own interest in certain way.

Then coming back to certain other non-medicinal, it is having a food value. Also this plant.., So this the seed of marijuana or hemp Plant. This is the super food. It is richer than flat seed on many of the count. For instantly we take them for omega 3 and omega 6 and all, it is as rich and richer.

Then coming back to the other part of the plant. So, its stem, its leaves, its roots., all are useful. It can give you concrete, which is lighter than the concrete used nowadays and will have a lot of diagnoses lightly. But I think, we have time, can probably do that. Cement industry has certain parameters. So the people who have involved in cement industry, lot of workers get fibrosis etc.. There are a polluting kind of industry, creates when you dig out the cement stone etc, it creates hypnology hazards. So just giving a gentle background. If you can produce concrete out of this plant, since it is a rotational pyridine, that is certain amount this year and next year, it is available in equal quantity. So it is very controllable, it is scalable, that means you can double the area or double the plant. In cement, if you will try to double the output, you will lay waste double the area also. So, you will increase the problems in proportion. So in that sense it gives concern.

At one time, I did mention about era 1757. In fact, Vasco da Gama came in to India 1498 and till that time, India used to sent its goods to Herbarium, to Arab countries and because of that the European countries which were our end user customer, they used to get a markup. It was profitable to the Arab and arab economy and the very reason Vasco da gama came to India was because of bypassing this markup. So shipping industry depended hugely on various hem derivatives. They used ropes. Now ropes don’t look very attractive to us nowadays. But in that time, very important, it used to give the sacks in which the goods will filled and sent. it was all very important, it was used for further selling, making the sales, various nets and so on. For this very important, of course, there were other thing, jute and similar other fibers also used in shipping industry. This for also very important and of course, the hem fibers used to making ruff clothing in so and so. In fact, it can actually make sophisticated clothing also.

Then another very important dues which is actually for making paper. So, I don’t know, were any of you has in association paper industry. Generally, paper is used out of pulp of certain trees only. Mainly bamboos and poplar is used to some extent. Sheesham is very valuable, probably used the waste portion of Sheesham is used. So bamboo is more suitable, is my message. And bamboo is difficult to grow, it grows fast, but it doesn’t grow on it so easily. So bamboo jungle is have their own ecology and they are getting destroyed very rapidly. I have seen them in Assam myself. This plant can actually fill that meet, in that rotational crop system, so it is very cyclic scenario. So which means the plant will grow, you will use it and they will not end product kind, you will be total consumed and the paper can be recycled also. Then this point should probably highlight in, it doesn’t need too much of care. It grows wild and wild, without care actually. So what has happen, I will reach those conclusions towards the end of my discussions, but please bear this point in a way, and that’s why I say that, all concurring plant and were probably was named as Vijaya .


In 17-18th century initial part Indian economy, I have mention this part. So European came to know about this plant, only post 1498 Vasco da gama, that kind of period and they found that it has been used in India and it has been used in certain way. It is found in the work of Garcia de Orta, in his 1534. He came up with the treatise called ‘colloquies drugs and medicinal matters of India’, or maybe they simplify the old English word sometimes. And it records the prevalent use of bhang, not marijuana. Incidentally, for appetite general health and better work output actually. So they would give it to better to workers or probably they consume on it so and so. They continue working for longer hours etc. and British prospective. So, of course, over the period British force came in India and they started making India for its wealth and they were looking for making as much money out of India as possible. So first they trap things like cotton which can be another talk altogether. I touched up on cotton in any case, but the way they destroyed the cotton industry, in general, all Indian industry, the case study in itself.

Similarly when they saw that this is used, and this is actually in India, the use of alcohol was there, but again was limited, thus was for more trouble. And they felt that they can tax and money can made out of it. Sso for instance, in India, the OPIUM was also used and they, I mention the way, British actually tried make India to grow OPIUM and take it in sale it in China etc. So they made many attempt, but probably the knowledge was not that sophisticated the terms of metabolisms etc. They probably did not figure out the narcotic sense, it is on addicting that sense. So 1838, 1871 and 1877 they wanted essentially at criminalize. Criminalize because somebody faces prison, he would rather pay taxes and remain on the safer side and if it is, he is addicted to it, he will consume it, pay taxes of that kind. They can be many case study on criminalizing also. For instance, they did a huge study, and this is where I give a credit to the British.

So three thousand pages study, which is indo – British study, the border 1894, and it is available, I will incorrect. Some people actually go to, it is available, I downloaded it, and I did not read the whole thing but went through many part of it actually. So they recorded many interviews of the people usage etc. and eventually. So look at this para and I will probably wait for a minute. You can or I can read it out. Thus viewing the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of drugs is the rule. They found the Indian people are using it, but the usage is moderate. That means, may be, 2-4 person population uses it and even out those, most of them uses it occasionally. Excess uses comparatively exemption, that means only very minute portion using this exceptionally.

The moderate use practically produces no ill effect. So they found through empirical research that, the moderate uses not producing any ill effect. Even where there is exceptional uses there, that is, those people who are using it exceptionally high, there also the injury from habitual moderate, was not appreciable excess uses certainly be excepted as very injurious. Some people of courses use it exceptionally, it can cause certain injury most of the time it was used as smoke. So you will smoke anything it definitely harm you. The injury done by the excess use all confined almost exclusively to consumer himself. We have seen actually, the people who consume alcohol, it not only damages them, it damages the family and society also.

So what they are concluding is that it was only harming that person and effect on society is rarely appreciable. It has been the most tracking feature of the inquired to find how little the effect of him. Drugs obtruded themselves on observation. And this is observation of report which is nearly about hundred and twenty-five years old. So India the cultural use was widespread, but it was moderate. So I use the word Chronic but not acute. A class of people such as, mostly it was holy person or those certain sex they will use it, and bulk of the people avoid it or use it occasionally.

Now where did all these lead to actually? They were able to put marijuana on the excise it. British added and bhang escaped, marijuana was made illegal bhang, was made excisable, because bhang was more, you need more bulk of it, they immediately saw that hire more money lets excise.  Even now it is in the same way, alcohol is excisable, and bhang is excisable, poppies are also excisable. These were three substantial made excises.

US Perspective —

Do better fast forward, in 1930, US was using in this many ways, the industrial usage which are mention, and now things get serious in the sense, that is a bit of either inadvertent and or deliberate politics which happen and impacted India. They used make paper, essential oil, furniture, construction material, fodder, clothes some of the other usage, which I did not mention earlier. And USA works in such a way that few things will always trump other things. So their interest is variable for instance, during prohibition, you know, the illegal usage of alcohol and the moonshining etc, was huge business. In fact alcohol not a drug, it was essentially a moonshiner, who would make it liquor in Canada and bring it legally in to US. It is credible. I don’t have enough evidence, but I suspect there is enough reasons of suspect that the corporate industry felt threaten, has they, has a lot to lose from hemp competition. So their uses, sessions, what they going support for which there is evidence. They got media,they got the pressure group, they got Lobbies , and they started building cases to make marijuana and hemp growth itself illegal uses etc. And they succeeded and this is how this billion dollar plant, I called it a billion dollar plant because, if it is grown properly systematically with a lot of research in how to do, how to find outlet, how to create supply chains around etc., the way it is around sugar and other substance, and it can be easily grown in great abundance inexpensively.  In fact, there is data which I not sharing, but it can be grown inexpensively. Inputs are almost next to nothing, even as compared to other plants in that sense.

I am saying it can threaten liquor industry, it can threaten timber industry and synthetic and plastic industries. So any guesses, where was this synthetic and plastic was coming from? Essentially from oil industry which also, started from US only, the automotive industry, and in the footstep oil industry group. So this tracing is very important and some people feel that the case again liquor Vs marijuana looks weak, but believe me people who are lobbying for liquor or similar derivatives they definitely were threaten because, if you grow marijuana you can grow it on home whereas liquor also you can grow but making liquor Is for more lengthy and complicated process. Here it grows, you can dry it, and you can smoke it roughly. This is very short.

So it can be traced, but what can happen because of all this, once the society become more complex, there was single convention in narcotic drugs in New York in 1961 and they not only ban it in US, and US at was already ban it from 1938 onwards, and different states came with legislation in different eras and so on, and consequently all free recreational etc, everything was stopped in America.

Next, now of course, restarting in that sense, I am saying fifty years it was totally illegal, and if you are found whatever a small piece of cigarette marijuana, you can get a long sentence fifteen year of kind sentence, also I suppose. And Indian government was also party to it, and under the pressure of US India also become signatory. They try to oppose it incidentally and it was not a very systematic and cogent opposition, somewhat flimsy opposition that is. It is used in India culturally, the same thing which I already shared. So US also said ‘do something’, but in general ban it, that kind of relaxation was given. So they said twenty five years we are giving you, but then you stop clamp down on the whole things. So 1985, because you were signatory in 1961, you made it illegal and it is just the way things we all nobody had applied too much of brain. May I did, 1961 had signed then will have to make it illegal.

So what was the present situation? Obviously 1961 India was in no position to oppose US was saying. You know, we were going to begging bowl to USA and we were ready to get the red wheat which was fed in America for cattle’s to grow better beef. We would not have opposed USA systematically in any case and US was emergent post world war power in the world, and this is where the position stands also. Right now, however, with now, US legalizing it although, because it is a complex societ. US is now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. I have not read or studied it in detail because now legal position are for more complicated to study, whether they have allowed the industrial or business use of hemp plant also.

So where does all these lead us to? We knew about this plant, it was indigenes to India and we had enough reason to suspect that it helps us in many ways recreationally, medicinally, business produce ways, and then somewhere in the beginning of previous century, it went of the sea. No research happened and it was forgotten and even after independence no further researches happen. For instance, for this plant has grown better, grow faster, grow more fiber etc. It has happen in other direction like wheat, rice, sugarcane and may be other plant but not on, at least not to my knowledge and I will be happy in light-in further.

So at what kind of advantage that can give us. I already mentioned so, roughly at this point I will conclude my talk and now some questions somewhat open or deliberately food for thought in future. But I substantially feel that this and many other indigenes plants are capable of giving India a direction which is aware of plastic consumption and many other things and a pyridine, which not available in the world, can immerge in India and it is rooted in our traditional known and indigenes knowledge systems.

So that is my basic message and this case study can be repeated for other substances, like jute, like cotton and many other things. So at this point I conclude my talk.

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