Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is projecting an economic boom in legalising the hemp cultivation as thousands of families depend on it.
In his Budget speech on Saturday, Thakur said, “Commercial hemp cultivation is permitted and regulated in many countries and in some states in India.”
“This creates investment and employment opportunities. The state government proposes to frame a policy to permit commercial hemp cultivation with proper regulatory framework,” Thakur, who holds a finance portfolio too, said.
He presented a Rs 50,192-crore populist but deficit Budget for 2021-22 with no new taxes despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts told IANS there is a huge demand for opium, an extract of the poppy grown widely in high mountains of the state, mainly the Kullu Valley, in the pharmaceutical industry.
They say the selective cultivation of cannabis and poppy on the lines of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh could annually generate revenue of Rs 800 crore to Rs 900 crore.
According to the police officials, over 60 per cent of the poppy and cannabis produced in Himachal is smuggled to countries such as Israel, Italy, Holland and other European countries. The rest finds its way to Nepal or other Indian states like Goa, Punjab, and Delhi.
They say cannabis and poppy (opium) plants are grown illegally on vast tracts in Kullu, Mandi, Shimla, and Chamba districts. Police records show that 50,000 acres in Kullu Valley alone is under cannabis cultivation.
Lured by cheap hashish, the police admit foreigners settled illegally in remote villages have been actively involved in smuggling narcotics. They have been indulged in providing high-yield variety cannabis seeds to local growers for planting in various high-altitude areas.
Malana, a village in the Kullu Valley, has long been notorious for cultivating the prized ‘Malana Cream’ hashish, a purified resinous extract of cannabis.
Of late, the increasing involvement of Nepalese nationals in the narcotic trade is a matter of concern. They are procuring cheap charas from Nepal and selling it in the name of ‘Malana Cream’ in India.