September 4, 2023

My Entrepreneurial Vision for India's Budding Cannabis Industry


Tridib Nandy sees huge potential for India to develop a thriving cannabis industry through progressive reforms, innovation, and responsible practices. He outlines the opportunities and challenges in shaping a legal cannabis sector that improves affordability, spurs rural job creation, and establishes India as a global exporter.

My name is Tridib Nandy, and as an entrepreneur, I see tremendous potential in India's emerging cannabis industry. Although cannabis has a long history of traditional use in India, its prohibition in 1985 halted the development of a thriving cannabis sector. With recent policy changes legalising medical cannabis, India now stands at an inflection point in the growth of its cannabis industry.

In this blog, I will share my perspective on the opportunities and challenges in developing India's cannabis sector into an economically transformative industry.

The Turning of the Tides - Legalisation of Medical Cannabis

Cannabis has been consumed in India for centuries for spiritual, medical and recreational purposes. However, its legal status was ambiguous after India's independence. Then in 1985, the government banned cannabis under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

But the demand for cannabis continued unabated. Estimates suggest cannabis consumption grew from 20 million people in 2004 to 75 million in 2020. This demonstrates the widespread demand for cannabis despite its prohibition.

The tides started to turn in 2017 when the government officially recognized the medicinal properties of cannabis. This nod of approval from the highest levels signalled the relaxing of cannabis laws in India.

In 2020, the government passed amendments to the NDPS Act, legalising the cultivation of medical and industrial cannabis. This historic legislation opened doors for research, production and sale of legal cannabis products.

The legalisation of medical cannabis in India is a watershed moment. It paves the path for entrepreneurs and businesses to tap into the huge potential of the cannabis industry.

Sizeable Market Potential for Medical Cannabis

According to a 2022 report by Grand View Research, the medical cannabis market in India was valued at $42.8 million in 2021. This market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 16% between 2023 to 2028.

The report also estimates that the domestic demand for medical cannabis will surge from 1.27 tonnes in 2021 to 330 tonnes in 2026. This exponential growth demonstrates India's large addressable market for cannabis.

Apart from domestic consumption, India can leverage its pharmaceutical expertise and low-cost workforce to manufacture cannabis products for global exports. If fully legalised, some estimates peg the potential cannabis market at billions of dollars.

My Vision for Building a Thriving Cannabis Industry

As an entrepreneur with experience in the pharmaceutical sector, I am excited about the potential for India's cannabis industry. Here are some key aspects of my vision for developing this nascent sector:

Improve Affordability and Accessibility of Cannabis Medicines

First and foremost, we need to make cannabis-based medicines affordable and accessible to patients in India. The exorbitant prices of imported medicines put them out of reach for most patients. Domestic companies should collaborate to develop economical cannabis formulations for conditions like cancer, epilepsy and chronic pain.

Foster Innovation in Cannabis Products and Solutions

Apart from medicines, cannabis offers scope for innovation across sectors. Hemp seeds can add protein to diets. Hemp fibres can make durable textiles and bioplastics. Cannabis plants can also be processed into cosmetics, beverages, construction materials and more. Entrepreneurs should leverage technology and research to create unique cannabis products.

Develop India's Cannabis Export Capabilities

With its vast farmlands and skilled workforce, India can become a global manufacturing hub for medicinal cannabis. However, this will need substantial investments into cultivation infrastructure and cannabis R&D. The focus should be on high-value cannabis extracts and pharmaceuticals for export markets.

Collaborate with Policymakers to Shape Cannabis Regulations

For the legal cannabis industry to grow, businesses need to collaborate with policymakers. Entrepreneurs should share industry insights and global best practices to shape cannabis-friendly regulations in India. Progressive policies can attract investment and talent to the sector.

Promote Sustainable and Ethical Cannabis Farming Practices

It is crucial to make cannabis cultivation sustainable and ethical in India. Cannabis companies should pay fair wages to farmers, use organic farming practices and minimise environmental impact. Strict quality standards and transparent monitoring mechanisms will ensure the industry benefits rural communities.

Navigating the Challenges Along the Way

Developing a thriving cannabis industry comes with its share of challenges. Firstly, the social stigma around cannabis use continues to persist in India. The spread of misinformation also creates an unfavourable public perception. Targeted awareness campaigns on medical cannabis can help overcome this challenge.

Secondly, complex regulations around licensing and financing create roadblocks for entrepreneurs and investors. However, I am hopeful that policies will evolve to be more business-friendly. Industry associations need to work with the government to shape progressive regulations.

Finally, cannabis businesses face difficulties getting banking services due to cannabis' legal status. But access to financial services may improve with more large-scale investments in the sector. Digital payment options can also help overcome this hurdle.

Final Thoughts: A Golden Opportunity for India

Despite the challenges, India's emerging cannabis sector presents a golden opportunity. My request to the government would be to continue on the path of progressive policy reforms to fully legalise cannabis. This can energise innovation, rural job creation and exports in this high-potential sector.

With the right policies and entrepreneurial efforts, I see India emerging as a global hub for affordable medical cannabis. The responsible development of this industry can uplift the health and livelihoods of Indians across sections of society. I am excited to play my role in making this vision a reality.

The future looks promising for cannabis in India. I welcome your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we build this industry. Please reach out to me at to continue the conversation.

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