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Is CBD Oil Legal in India?

Written by Nishant Garund
Medically Reviewed by Dr.Varuni Agarwal

Dr. Varuni Agarwal is an esteemed Ayurvedic physician specializing in
diagnosing diseases through Ayurvedic dosha imbalances and providing personalized treatments. She focuses on ahara (diet) and vihara (lifestyle) to manage and heal various ailments.

Is CBD Oil Legal in India?

 

With the rising popularity of CBD in India, everyone is asking one very important question, i.e., Is CBD Oil Legal in India? Cannabidiol or CBD is a product derived from the Cannabis plant. CBD’s popularity has grown manifold over the last few years as various medicinal and therapeutic properties have come to be established. It is not a psychoactive compound, unlike THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, its psychoactive counterpart, also derived from the Cannabis plant. While CBD is usually derived from Hemp, Marijuana is preferred for the extraction of THC.

However, the use of CBD as a medicine is not a new phenomenon. In India, it is deeply rooted in Ayurvedic medicine. CBD has been mentioned in the Ayurvedic scriptures as 'Vijaya'. The recent years have also witnessed a surge in misinformation around CBD and its usage in India. It is believed to be illegal in India when that is certainly not the case. Although the legal framework around Cannabis and its various derivatives is vague and unspecific, CBD is definitely legal to use, sell, and possess.

Is CBD Oil Legal in India: The Legal Framework

With the advent of various CBD-based products in the market, consumers are more confused now more than ever regarding CBD and its legality in India.

The leaves of the Cannabis plant are used for the extraction of CBD oil as it is rich in Cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of these Cannabinoids. Interestingly, CBD is not listed under any of the schedules of 1961, 1971, or 1988 United Nations International Drug Control Conventions of which India is a signatory. Pure CBD oil also does not come under pharmaceutical products as it is completely natural and does not contain any synthetic chemical components.

In the USA, the FDA does not classify CBD products as either dietary supplements or nutraceuticals.To understand the legality of CBD oil in India, let's dive into the details. The ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) and the DGCI (Drugs Controller General of India) have a very vague stance on these products. There exists a gaping void in India when it comes to a proper regulatory framework and specific guidelines as far as THC-free hemp-based products are concerned.

Legality Under NDPS Act 

According to the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act of 1985, the seeds and leaves of the Cannabis plant are not considered to be narcotics and thus do not come under the purview of this act. Consequently, as the CBD oil is extracted from the leaves of Cannabis, it is also exempted from the NDPS Act. Moreover, the medicinal, as well as recreational use of CBD and CBD-based products is legal as long as they do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exceeding 0.3% concentration.

Is CBD oil legal in India if it contains a high amount of THC? The 0.3% limit of THC in CBD-based products was established by a Gazette notification in October 2001. According to this, possession of THC that makes up for more than 50 grams and/or 0.3% concentration in a formulation is illegal and may attract legal action under the NDPS Act. The NDPS act has a very strict stance against THC and other intoxicating derivatives of the plant. CBD oil with a high THC content is only legal for medicinal use, for which a patient is required to have a valid prescription.

CBD Oil vs Bhaang and other derivatives

is cbd oil legal in india

 

Is CBD oil the same as bhaang and other hemp derivatives? To answer, while Bhaang is legal due to attached religious values and sentiments, variations in laws regarding the same can be seen in different states. It must also be noted that CBD oil is different from Cannabis oil and Hash oil as these have been classified as narcotics due to their intoxicating effect. CBD, on the contrary, does not cause intoxication in any form and is therefore not a narcotic. CBD oil is also not the same as Hemp Seed Oil, which is another popular derivative of the same plant.

CBD Oil (Vijaya) and the Ministry of AYUSH 

There are specific guidelines under the regulatory framework of the Ministry of AYUSH for legality of CBD oil in India. In the Rajya Sabha, questions were raised about using cannabidiol (CBD) for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani medicine. 

The Minister of AYUSH, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, explained the regulations. While Bhanga (cannabis plant, excluding seeds) is a controlled substance, CBD itself isn't currently recognized in these traditional Indian medical systems. This means any medications containing CBD wouldn't be classified as Ayurvedic, Siddha, or Unani medicine. However, there are still labelling requirements:

  • Drugs with Schedule E substances (like Bhanga) must have a warning label stressing the need for medical supervision during use as per Rule 161(2) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. 
  • Additionally, to regulate the sale of  Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani drugs containing Schedule E(1) substances, the Central Consumer  Protection Authority (CCPA) issued an advisory to e-commerce platforms, stipulating that such products can only be sold with a valid prescription from a registered practitioner of the respective  systems of medicine. 

The response highlights the limitations around using CBD in traditional Indian medicine. It stresses the need for medical supervision and clear regulations to ensure safe and responsible consumption. The government is trying to find a balance. They see the potential of CBD for medical use, but also want strict rules in place to protect public health. Their goal is to allow responsible CBD use within the existing legal framework.

Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil 

Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil legal in India

Hemp Seed Oil contains Cannabidiol in lower concentration and is nearly not as potent as CBD oil. It is known more for its nutritional value as it is rich in essential fatty acids and other similar compounds. As the name suggests, Hemp Seed oil is derived from cold pressing the seed of the Cannabis plant, whereas CBD oil is derived from its leaves, stalks and flowers.

Is CBD oil legal in India if it is derived from hemp flowers or buds? 

The answer is, no! The hemp flowers and buds are not legal as per the NDPS. Surprisingly, the NDPS Act is not applicable as far as the leaves and the seeds of the plant are concerned. Although both of these are legal (assuming they contain less than 0.3% THC), it must be remembered that they are very different products.

A guide for buyers

Now that we have understood the legality of the CBD oil, some factors must be taken into consideration while choosing and buying CBD oil. India has been witnesing a blooming CBD industry and the market is saturated with products – both good and substandard. CBD oil can be bought both online as well as offline and a prescription is not required for its purchase. This is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Although the ease to buy CBD online is appreciable, the onus of choosing the right product is on the buyer.

Is CBD oil legal in India, and what are the things you should do as a buyer? As a buyer, you should examine the ingredients of the oil and check the concentration of Cannabidiol in the product. You should also look for the extraction pressed as that plays a key role in determining the quality of CBD oil. Generally, critical extraction through carbon dioxide is one of the most preferable and safest extraction methods when it comes to CBD oil as it gets rid of all impurities and leaves behind pure and unadulterated CBD.

Another common question is - What if the CBD oil contains THC? As a buyer, you should also ensure that THC is not present in the CBD oil and if it is, it should not exceed the concentration of 0.3 per cent. Another thing to look for is the concentration of Cannabidiol as CBD oil is available in various strengths and you may need a lighter or a more concentrated version depending on your requirements.

Since the regulatory framework around CBD is vague in India, and the question whether CBD oil is legal in India might still confuse some people, it is advisable that you buy from sellers who are transparent about their products, ingredients, and the process of extraction. Additionally, if you suffer from underlying health conditions, you must consult a doctor before taking CBD oil to avoid possible complications and adverse drug interactions.

Conclusion 

So, is CBD oil legal in India? Medicinally, yes! It is perfectly legal. CBD oil has an uncountable number of benefits. It is a therapeutic and medicinal derivative of the Cannabis plant and often gets dismissed due to the notoriety surrounding Cannabis as it is also the source of THC, a psychoactive stimulant that has been classified as an intoxicant and thus, banned in India under the NDPS Act.

On the other hand, CBD is legal for medical as well as recreational purposes as long as it does not contain any banned substances or THC in a concentration exceeding 0.3%. Not to mention that it is completely safe and does not have the same intoxicating effect as THC. It is, therefore, safe for use in any form. Although it can be bought without a prescription, one must also keep in mind that medical guidance is invaluable when it comes to any supplement which has a medicinal value attached to it.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Is Cannabidiol oil legal in India?

Yes, CBD oil derived from hemp leaves with a THC content below 0.3% is legal in India. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) doesn't classify this type of CBD oil as a narcotic drug.

2. CBD oil is legal in India even if it comes from Cannabis? 

The NDPS Act mainly targets the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in cannabis. CBD oil, when derived from hemp leaves and containing minimal THC, doesn't have the intoxicating effects of marijuana.

3. Where can I buy legal CBD oil in India?

Look for reputable retailers selling CBD oil manufactured under a license issued under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. It's advisable to avoid products with unclear origins or high THC content.

4. What are the restrictions on CBD oil in India?

While legal, CBD oil in India faces limitations. Marketing and advertising for these products are heavily restricted. Additionally, the legality of CBD products other than oil (edibles, cosmetics) remains unclear.

5. Is a prescription needed for CBD oil in India?

Currently, a prescription isn't mandatory for CBD oil that falls under the legal guidelines. However, consulting a doctor before using CBD oil is always recommended, especially if you're taking other medications.

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