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Legalisation of Non-Narcotic use of Cannabis (Hemp) in Himachal: Policy in Making

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Cannabis Legalizatoin in Himachal Pradesh 2019

Shimla-A policy for the cultivation of Cannabis (Hemp) in Himachal Pradesh could see the light of the day as the government has hinted at legalizing it for non-narcotic use. The Excise and Taxation Department, HP, is framing a policy on the lines of neighbouring state Uttarakhand to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for the production of life-saving medicines and some other limited number of industrial products. It was confirmed by Sanjay Kundu, the Principal Secretary, HP Excise and Taxation Department recently.

Advocate Deven Khana, a resident of Shimla, has been fighting a long legal battle in the state high court. The High Court had already given a green light and directed the government to take the final decision time and gain. However, the state government has been seeking time for the past two years in the Court. In the last order of the High Court, eight-week time was given by the division bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice Surya Kant and again by the bench headed by Justice V Ramasubramanian (both now justices of Hon’ble Supreme Court). The petition has been heard by 4 different benches of the Hon’ble High Court i.e 8 judges, all have agreed with the submissions and have asked the state to take action.

Advocate Deven Khanna, a resident of #Shimla, currently practicing at the State High Court of HimacahlPradesh is…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई बुधवार, 24 जुलाई 2019

However, now, it is being speculated that ahead of government’s Global Investor Meets, some foreign countries have shown interest in procuring cannabis as raw material from the state for production of medicines, research, and other products.

There is a possibility that the government would consider approving this policy in the cabinet meeting to be held in November before the Investors Meet.  If legalized, this step would offer an alternative source of income to the people of rural areas like Malana, which are currently infamous for narcotic use of cannabis.

UP has already become the first state to sanction a research and development (R&D) project on cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), compounds found in cannabis. The same direction has been given by the state high court of Himachal Pradesh.

Earlier, unawareness and lack of education regarding the difference between hemp and recreational cannabis and the political link between the two, the topic of legalization had been facing criticism and state was missing a big opportunity to cash on it. Himachal Watcher (HW) had published a detailed report to clear this misunderstanding.

It’s available here. HW has also highlighted the fact as to how legalization of hemp cultivation could revolutionize the economy of the state. 

The petition further states that the goal of such a policy would be to ultimately reduce the availability of narcotic cannabis plant to the drug market and instead make it available for non-narcotic purposes to our scientists, doctors, industrial leaders and farmers. Further, the drug problem will be checked If industrial hemp or low THC plant is grown as it will reduce the potency of wild cannabis (which is high in THC) due to cross-pollination (this has been tried in other countries and backed by research in the petition).

Must Watch: Impact of Hemp Legalisation in Himachal Advocate Deven Khanna, a resident of #Shimla, had filed a petition in the HP High Court, seeking directions to the State Government to legalise hemp cultivation in #HimachalPradesh. Owing to his battle for the legalisation, the court also gave a green signal. He created awareness among people in villages, and now a large number of panchayats are supporting him in this campaign. You must listen to Deven speaking why he is perusing a vigorous fight to legalise hemp cultivation in the State. "When the laws are more dangerous than the drug itself, a fight for civil liberties becomes necessary Stopping research and science are not only unconstitutional but a crime against evolution. The petition seeks to open the market for medical and commercial use of cannabis in the Himalayas so that the locals have some alternative source of income, patients have access to effective natural medicines, making available biodegradable alternatives to plastic," he says. #HempLegalisation #Hemp #Cannabis #CannabisLegalisations #Himachal #HPGovt

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई शुक्रवार, 22 मार्च 2019

Other Details Regarding the Petition Filed in the State High Court

Approx 8000 pages of research have been submitted from the past 2 years in the High Court and with the State government by the Petitioner Advocate.
  1. The research includes 60 peer review ‘medical hemp studies’,
  2. Comparative analysis of ‘ market projections of industrial hemp’ by various companies and foreign Governmental bodies,
  3. Projected profits for farmers, Government, and Companies for Himachal Pradesh,
  4. Comparative analysis of laws of various countries (like Canada Israel, USA, South Africa, Mexico, etc),
  5. licensing terms and conditions of different countries,
  6. Testimonials of patients especially those who suffer from cancer and epilepsy who need immediate help,
  7. The research of Indian research institutes like AYUSH, CSIR, etc,
  8. The text from Indian scriptures and mention in Ayurveda of the plant and its recorded medicinal usage from past centuries.

 

The petition states that by making Non-Narcotic use of the plant, dependent upon the Government’s discretion (through Section 10 of NDPS), makes it incumbent upon the government to take a reasonable and a rational decision. By not taking the decision, the State is violating fundamental rights and is also hampering the economic and commercial growth of the society. The Non-Narcotic use for medicines and economically/ecologically viable products has the potential of revolutionizing the economy of the State, and better the lives of people suffering from various diseases.

The petition extensively quotes various sections of the NDPS Act 1985 and its interpretation by the courts of law. The petition also goes through cases of various countries involving medicinal use of cannabis and its industrial applications where the courts have declared them to be a matter of right for citizens.

After hearing the petition and the arguments, in its  order dated 01.2018, it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court that:

“Based on scientific data, writ petitioner points out that perhaps if the Executive were to rationally formulate a policy and also effectively implement the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, also with the genetic modification of the plants of cannabis, not only there would be rapid economic growth checking problem of unemployment in the rural areas, but would also reduce pollution. In fact, the larger public interest would be served with the use of the extract of the genetically modified plants for health purposes. The end product of the cannabis plants, which thus far, rather notoriously, has been used as a psychotropic substance, with proper regulation, sensitization and awareness, can be used for advancement of industrial economic growth and betterment of life of such of those persons, who in particular are suffering from cancer and neurological disorder. Perhaps, it is in this backdrop that the Central Government has also made an endeavour to formulate a policy, which is commonly known as the National Fiber Policy, 2010. The writ petitioner also points out the extensive research, so carried out by him, indicating the change in the trend, throughout the world, of putting the end product of a genetically modified plant, for medical use.”

 

Then in an order dated 07.2018 in it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court that;

 

“Para 20, (ii). Government may also consider hiring services of some Research Agencies, who in turn may advise/recommend alternate use, especially medicinal use, if any, of cannabis plant grown in the State of Himachal Pradesh, so that local residents, involved in illegal trade of cannabis, are encouraged to use cannabis plants for producing some medicines or other substance which can be used legally.”

 

Then in an order dated 07.2018 in it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court  again directed;

“The matter has been adjourned from time to time to enable the State Government to revisit the whole issue, take a holistic view and come out with a new policy decision. Various stakeholders and subject experts are stated to have been consulted in the process of decision making. On 23rd April 2019, the petitioner also has filed/supplied voluminous record along with DVD, containing relevant material on the issue to the State Authorities. Learned Senior Additional Advocate General seeks and is granted more time for the final decision. We have no reason to doubt that the competent Authority shall consider the entire material, including one supplied by the petitioner before taking a final decision in the matter. It shall be appreciated if the decision is taken within a period of eight weeks.”

The petition in the High Court of Himachal Pradesh is seeking two things:

1. Cultivation of Industrial Hemp (or a Non-Narcotic Plant) , about 0.3% – 1.5% THC

2. Collection by Government of Wild Himalayan Cannabis Plant, 5% – 10% or more THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that makes you high)

Hemp and Marijuana both come from the same plant – Cannabis Sativa L. The term ‘Hemp’ commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics, and building materials.

The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial Hemp can not be used as a recreation drug.

Industrial hemp is a nonpsychoactive verity of cannabis which can be used for 50000 commercial products, as it does not contain THC  (narcotic compound) it can be grown like any other crop. It can be grown in rotation with apple. It grows in a cycle of 90 to 120 days and can be used to make paper (which saves cutting of trees) and bio-plastic, fibre and medicines, etc.

 Not only is Industrial Hemp useful for economically viable raw material, but it also prevents the growth of high THC plant.

The petition further states that if farmers have this alternative source of income, it will provide them with a choice of making money through the legal means,  and it will prevent them to falling pray at the hands of the illicit drug market for quick money.

The second part of the petition deals with collecting wild Himalayan cannabis and using it for medicinal purposes, as it is all on govt land or forest land, the government can collect it That wild-growing cannabis plant thus can be collected and supplied as raw material (its stock for fibre, its seeds as medicine) to industries and stakeholders. This will not only reduce the availability of the plant for drug use, but it would also generate income for the villagers (who collect) and commercial units.

Summary of Relief Sought from the High Court

First, the government should define industrial hemp (based on the percentage of THC) and authorize the cultivation and possession of industrial hemp by creating an advisory board or commission.

The petition also appeals to facilitate the cultivation, processing, and use of only industrial and medical hemp, so that the public could receive is commercial and medical benefits.

The petition seeks to authorize a state licensing or registration program for growers and seed breeders. The state departments should be allowed to collect funds for research programs, said the petition.

The government can promote research and support the development of markets for industrial and medical hemp.

The court can direct the government to collect important information on industrial and medicinal hemp to further make regulations/guidelines on easy access to open industries, scientific research labs, and institutes for Industrial and medicinal hemp use.

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Rs. 1 Crore to HP Police Department for PPE and N95 Masks

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HP Police PPE kits and masks

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on Saturday sanctioned rupees one crore (Rs. 50 lakhs from HP COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and Rs. 50 lakhs from State Disaster Response Fund) to Police Department for purchase of high-risk Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks for police personnel of the State in the wake of pandemic COVID-19.

HPSEB Contributed 1.97 crore Towards Chief Minister Relief Fund

On behalf of officers and officials of H.P. State Electricity Board Limited, the Chairman of the Board, Ram Subhag Singh, contributed Rs. 1.97 crore towards Chief Minister Relief Fund on Saturday.

Chief Minister again made a fervent appeal to the people for the generous donation towards this Fund so that needy people could be benefited.

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17 People of Himachal Visited COVID-19 Hotspot Nizamuddin in Delhi: HP Govt

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Himachali's at Nizamuddin, Delhi

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on Tuesday confirmed that as many as 17 people of the State were on the religious congregation at Delhi Nijamuddeen. All of them are under 14 days surveillance of Delhi Government at New Delhi and till now they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

These persons belong to Chamba, Sirmaur, and Kullu districts.

This large religious gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin has emerged as a virus hotspot with links to seven COVID-19 deaths. Among those who had attended the gathering, 50 have tested positive in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Delhi, 21 in Telangana, 18 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Andamans and one each in Assam and Kashmir after attending the gathering. 

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) shared details of foreign and Indian Tabhlig Jamaat (TJ) workers in India with all States on March 21, 2020, after COVID-19 positive cases among these workers surfaced in Telangana.

All the Tabligh Jamaat workers staying at Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz are being medically screened since March 26. So far, 1203 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been medically screened.  Over 300 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 and were referred to different hospitals in Delhi.

Various nationals, particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan had come for Tabligh activities.

Meanwhile, So far, 1339 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been shifted to Narela, Sultanpuri and Bakkarwala quarantine facilities as well as to LNJP, RGSS, GTB, DDU Hospitals and AllMS, Jhajjar. Rest of them are being currently medically screened for COVID-19 infections. No new case has been reported in Himachal. 

Usually, all the foreign nationals visiting India as a part of Tabligh team come on the strength of a tourist visa. MHA had already issued guidelines that they should not indulge in missionary work on a tourist visa. State Police would be examining categories of visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions.

BACKGROUND

Tabligh Jamaat Headquarter (Markaz) is located in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Devout Muslims from across the country and also from foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. Some also move out in groups to different parts of the country for Tabligh activities. This is a continuous process throughout the year.

On March 21, approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign nationals were staying in the Markaz. Besides, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, the lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/police across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.

As of now, nearly 1400 confirmed cases and 35 deaths have been reported. During the last 24 hours, 227 new confirmed cases and 3 new deaths have been reported.

 

 

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Pandemic – ‘Nationwide Lock-down’ A Tale of Caution & Hope

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Curfew Relaxation in Himachal Pradesh 3

Shimla-It’s for the first time in the history of our planet that the entire Humankind is together and is focused on fighting with one problem.

In India, from many days Doctors have been coming out and demanding a nationwide lockdown fearing the wrath of the virus which has been raging hell all across the world. The State has now responded and has ordered a 21-day lockdown for the entire nation, which is an unprecedented move.

The Lockdown is an extreme step which is demanded by these extraordinary circumstances. And as expected it has and will continue to have a huge impact on the economic health of the country. It has paralysed virtually all commerce and has put millions of people out of work, leaving many struggling with basic requirements like food and medicines. This has caused much debate in the media and elsewhere that whether we are ‘over-reacting’ to the coronavirus outbreak?

In this post, the author argues that the present step of a ‘National Lockdown’ is the most efficient and only available first response which the Government could have taken to tackle the immediate and ongoing existential crisis.

The viability of measures is to be seen through the lens of precaution and what might be the risk to reward outcome of the decision. The ‘precautionary principle’ which has had its evolution through various judgments of our Supreme Court ultimately boils down to an understanding that “if one is bound to err then always err on the side of minimising the risk and the scale of catastrophic harm than to take high-risk measures for immediate gains”.

The question which has arisen for consideration is,  ‘what is at stake by acting too strongly versus what is at stake by acting too weakly?.

The answer, when we think about it with any seriousness, is that too strong action will more quickly reduce wealth and economic activity; whereas too weak action could put crores of lives at stake across the country, and a far greater economic impact will await us down the line.

It is here then that the value judgments behind political decisions about pandemics come into full light. Are we willing to risk economic potency, or are we willing to risk our neighbours, friends, and elders’ lives? The United States and the United Kingdom who have not still imposed a complete nationwide lockdown and are also planning to lift the partial lockdown at the time of Easter (as announced by President Trump) have obviously given a very feeble response and have given considerable weightage to their economy rather than their people. India has chosen to completely focus on its people.

Precautionary Principle 

The Global pandemic and nature of this virus is a powerful reason for aggressively employing the Precautionary Principle to reduce our collective exposure to this deadly virus, an exposure which is grave.

It is hoped that a strong regulatory action which includes measures of forced quarantine, curfew and nation-wide lockdowns, (reduction of public transport/movement/contact) throughout the country would go some way towards lowering contagion even if not completely getting rid of it.

The basic point is that we need to consider the viability of measures through the lens of precaution, and always err on the side of minimising the risk and scale of catastrophic harm. We should be willing to make huge economic sacrifices. So that many of our fellow citizens don’t have their very lives sacrificed at the altar of ‘economic growth’.

The individual choices that we are all facing over the coming months should also be shaped by precaution. We need to be aware that passing this virus to others can create huge contagion cascades that infect thousands of people. It is only by taking pronounced physical distancing steps as early on as possible can we ensure that we are not fueling the wildfire of this pandemic. For many, this may mean a lonely few months, but that is by far a worthwhile price to pay to reduce the scale of this catastrophe.

A Caution- Listen to The Cry of the Poor and Homeless

Though the step by the Government of Lock-down is commendable, there are certain extremely important issues to be kept in mind.

Our country is home to the largest undernourished population in the world. It ranks 102 in the Global Hunger Index, has 1 in 5 people living on less than Rs.150 per day. We have the largest number of street children!

We need an Economic Task Force and a distribution strategy for the supply of essential commodities to the needy.

With the massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the country, there is a *huge and urgent* need of ration and other supplies for daily wage workers, workers in the informal sector as well as masks for doctors and nurses at the frontline.

There have been some announcements which have been made by the State to tackle the above situation such as:

  •  Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Yojana – Rs. 1,70,000 crore (Rs. 1.7 trillion) package for poor stuck in lockdown Rs. 50 lakhs insurance cover for health workers in Covid 2019 front.
  •  Pradhanmantri Ann Yojana – 800 Mn people will get additional free 5 kg wheat/Rice and 1 kg, Dal, for 3 months from ration
  • Farmers will get upfront Rs. 2,000 in their account directly
  •  MNREGA – Daily wages increased from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202. Rs 2,000 per worker will be an additional income.
  •  Old Age peoples – Poor senior citizen/widow / handicapped will get additional Rs. 1,000/pm for another 3 months.
  • Mahila Jan Dhan Account – Women will get additional Rs. 500/pm for another 3 months
  • Ujjwala Yojana – Below Poverty Level family will get free LPG cylinder for next 3 months
  •  Up to 20 lakh collateral-free loans for the SHGs from earlier 10 lakh crore cap
  • For organised sector employee and others who earn below Rs. 15,000 salary, Government will pay 12% + 12% provident fund (contribution of employee and employer) under EPF for the next 3 months.
  • EPFO regulations will be amended to allow workers under EPFO to draw up to 75% of their non-refundable advance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower.
  •  State governments to be directed to utilise an existing Rs 31,000 crore welfare fund for the benefit for 3.5 crore construction workers

Hope & Love

Hope now is that the underprivileged will continue to receive help not only from the Government but also from the super-rich and the various religious institutions that India is so infested by and is proud of. If there was any time for religious institutions to shine this is exactly that time.

We live in a world where infinite money is printed to support corporations and banks and millions are donated to ‘Gods and Godmen’, at the same time nakedly excluding the millions homeless, who are left scrounging for their next meal. India can break this vicious cycle and take steps here out of compassion and empathy. India, the oldest civilization of the world can lead the world and show the light of ‘reason & love’ in its civilized response to the present existential crisis.

There is nothing we can do to change the constraints of our existence. Heartbreak and death await us all one day. As  Albert Camus once said;

 Love is not just a confrontation with the absurdity of the world; it is a refusal to be broken by it.  It is our choice whether we shrink from the slings and arrows of fate, or whether we stand in the full light of the sun while it shines above us.

India! its time to stand at a “physical distance” but stand Together.

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