IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


26th March, 2024 Science and Technology


Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.


  • Bhang, a preparation made from the seeds and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant, is commonly consumed during Holi and Maha Shivratri festivities in India, where it is served most commonly with thandai — a cold beverage made from milk, sugar and an indulgent mix of nuts and species such as almonds, fennel seeds, watermelon kernels, rose petals, pepper, poppy seeds, cardamom and saffron.


Extraction of Bhang

  • Harvesting: Cannabis plants, typically growing 4 to 10 feet tall, are mainly found in the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan region of India. They are harvested for their leaves and seeds, which are used in Bhang preparation.
  • Preparation: The leaves and seeds are collected and reduced to a powder through grinding or crushing.
  • Filtration: The powdered cannabis material is then filtered to remove any coarse particles and impurities.
  • Mixing: The filtered cannabis powder is mixed with liquids, commonly cold, flavored milk or thandai, especially during Holi celebrations. This mixture is traditionally consumed for its psychoactive effects.

Composition of Bhaang

  • Cannabinoids: Bhaang contains cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in the human body, producing psychoactive and therapeutic effects.
  • Terpenes: Bhaang may also contain various terpenes, aromatic compounds found in cannabis and other plants. Terpenes contribute to the flavor, aroma, and potential therapeutic effects of Bhaang.
  • Other Constituents: Depending on the recipe and preparation method, Bhaang may contain additional ingredients such as milk, yogurt, spices, sweeteners, and flavorings, which can influence its taste, texture, and overall composition.


  • Psychoactive Effects: THC, the primary psychoactive component in Bhaang, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, resulting in alterations in mood, perception, and cognition. These effects contribute to the recreational use of Bhaang during festivals and social gatherings.
  • Therapeutic Potential: CBD, another cannabinoid present in Bhaang, has demonstrated potential therapeutic effects in preclinical and clinical studies. These include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective properties, which may contribute to the medicinal use of Bhaang in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Safety Considerations: While Bhaang is generally considered safe when consumed in moderation, excessive consumption can lead to adverse effects such as anxiety, paranoia, impaired coordination, and cognitive dysfunction. Long-term heavy use may also be associated with dependency and addiction.


  • Medicinal Uses:
    • Treatment of Animals: Cannabis ash is applied topically to animals' skin for conditions like haematoma, particularly in the Kumaun Hills of Uttarakhand.
    • Cattle Treatment: Boiled cannabis is administered to cattle experiencing shivering or other symptoms, as practiced in Theong tehsil of Shimla district, Himachal Pradesh.
    • Insect Sting Relief: Cannabis leaves are heated, crushed, and applied as a paste to relieve swelling and pain from insect stings, such as wasp or honey bee stings.
  • Agricultural Uses:
    • Germination Aid: Cannabis sap is used to treat paddy seeds for improved germination, particularly in the temperate areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • Pesticide: Cannabis plants are utilized to control threadworms in paddy nurseries, primarily in the Solki area of Rajouri district, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Industrial Uses:
    • Rope Making: Cannabis fiber, extracted from the stems and branches of the plant, is stronger than jute and is used for making ropes. This practice is observed in regions like Chhota/Bada Bhangal of Kangra and the Karsog area of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh.
    • Manufacturing: Hemp-seed oil derived from cannabis seeds is used in varnish industries and in the manufacturing of soft soap, serving as a substitute for linseed oil.

About Cannabis

Botanical and Chemical Composition:

  • Taxonomy: Cannabis is a genus within the Cannabaceae family, comprising three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
  • Cannabinoids: Cannabis produces over 100 cannabinoids, the most notable being THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in humans.
  • Terpenes: Cannabis contains various terpenes, aromatic compounds responsible for its distinct flavors and aromas. Terpenes also have potential therapeutic effects and can modulate the effects of cannabinoids.


  • Endocannabinoid System (ECS): The ECS consists of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), and enzymes responsible for endocannabinoid synthesis and degradation. Cannabis cannabinoids interact with these receptors, influencing various physiological processes.
  • Mechanism of Action: THC primarily acts as a partial agonist at CB1 receptors, producing psychoactive effects, while CBD modulates cannabinoid receptor activity and interacts with other molecular targets.
  • Pharmacokinetics: Cannabis pharmacokinetics involve absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. Factors such as route of administration, dose, and individual variability influence the pharmacokinetic profile of cannabinoids.

Medical Applications:

  • Pain Management: Cannabis and cannabinoids have analgesic properties and are used to alleviate chronic pain associated with conditions such as neuropathy, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.
  • Neurological Disorders: CBD has shown promise in treating epilepsy, reducing seizure frequency and severity, leading to the approval of CBD-based medications for certain forms of epilepsy.
  • Psychiatric Disorders: Cannabis-based medications may have therapeutic potential in treating anxiety disorders, PTSD, depression, and schizophrenia, although further research is needed to elucidate their efficacy and safety profiles.
  • Cancer: Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that cannabinoids may possess anticancer properties, including inhibition of tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis, as well as induction of apoptosis in cancer cells.

Adverse Effects:

  • Psychological Effects: Acute cannabis intoxication can cause impairments in cognition, memory, motor coordination, and perception, particularly at higher doses or in susceptible individuals.
  • Psychiatric Risks: Long-term cannabis use has been associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorders, psychosis, and mood disorders, especially in adolescents and young adults.
  • Respiratory Effects: Smoking cannabis can lead to respiratory symptoms and lung irritation, although the risk of respiratory complications appears to be lower compared to tobacco smoking.
  • Dependency and Withdrawal: Chronic cannabis use may lead to the development of dependency and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, characterized by irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and appetite changes.

Legal Status of Cannabis in India

National Legislation:

  • Historical Context: Cannabis and its derivatives have a complex legal history in India. Attempts to criminalize cannabis occurred during British colonial rule in the 19th century, but traditional preparations like Bhaang were exempted from such regulations.
  • International Treaty: The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs classified cannabis along with hard drugs. However, Bhaang, derived from leaves rather than flowering tops, was excluded from this classification, allowing India to maintain its cultural practices.
  • Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985: The NDPS Act maintains the distinction between cannabis resin and flowers (charas and ganja, respectively) and leaves (bhang). While production and sale of resin and flowers are prohibited, the use of leaves and seeds is permitted, subject to state regulation.

State Laws and Regulations:

  • Authorized Dealers: In most states, only government-authorized dealers are permitted to sell Bhaang. States may also regulate the maximum amount of Bhaang an individual can possess and the minimum age for buyers.
  • Regional Variations: Some states, such as Assam and Maharashtra, have laws prohibiting the sale, possession, and consumption of Bhaang. Others, like Karnataka, allow limited medicinal use but impose restrictions on recreational consumption.
  • Recent Developments: Gujarat legalized Bhaang in 2017, recognizing its cultural and religious significance. Efforts for broader cannabis reform are gaining momentum, with discussions on legalization for medical and industrial purposes at both national and state levels.
  • Himachal Pradesh: The state government is considering a policy to allow controlled cultivation of hemp or cannabis to boost the local economy, reflecting a growing trend towards recognizing the economic potential of cannabis cultivation.
  • Tripura: The state government has announced plans to form an expert panel to examine the viability of legalizing cannabis cultivation, driven by the potential for revenue generation and economic development. 

Reform Efforts:

  • Advocacy and Public Discourse: Organizations like the Great Legalisation Movement India have been advocating for cannabis reform since 2015, organizing conferences and media campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize support.
  • Political Initiatives: Members of Parliament have proposed amendments to the NDPS Act to allow for regulated supply of non-synthetic intoxicants, including cannabis and opium. Union Ministers and MPs have also expressed support for medical marijuana legalization.
  • Judicial Intervention: The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear petitions challenging the classification of cannabis under the NDPS Act, arguing for its reclassification based on scientific evidence and public interest.

International Engagement:

  • UN Vote: India voted in favor of removing cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 2020, signaling a shift in its stance on cannabis regulation at the international level.


Q.  While cannabis and cannabinoids hold therapeutic potential for numerous medical conditions, they also pose risks and adverse effects.  Discuss. (250 Words)