My Experiences with Online Indian Cannabis Pharmacies

Content Warning: Contains mentions of Marijuana, Substance Use, and my various Mental Health issues.

Note: Exactly 0% of this piece is medical advice.

“Attention is fluid.”

I don’t quite know what that means but I do know why I wrote it.

See, I’ve been eating these fabulous balls of, um, a certain plant these days.

Worldwide, the plant itself has been subject to controversy, ridicule, illegalisation, legalisation, and, in some cases, even worship. Right now, it happens to be in the “commercialisation” phase of its lifecycle.

We’re talking about weed.

I’ve smoked weed for a few years now. I’m not an expert in knowing what to buy or where to buy it, but I do roll a mean joint. My contact with its dealers has been sparse and too irregular to be of any real statistical significance. They have almost always played out in the following pattern:

  1. Source a dealer’s number from a friend.
  2. Whatsapp the dealer: “<location>… available?”
  3. Field a call; fix a time and place.
  4. Wait at said place at said time for four hours because the dealer got high.
  5. Finally, the dealer calls you and tells you about a vehicle in your vicinity (an auto with a certain number plate, a green bike, a red car).
  6. You locate said vehicle, get in, and drive about 200 meters from the place to a secluded spot.
  7. The transaction takes place.
  8. Walk home wondering if anyone saw you waiting for four hours because your last high is kind of running out, and you’re getting a bit paranoid.
  9. Get home, light an essential oil, put on some music, and try to maybe forget about the apocalypse currently taking place outside with the help of that sweet sweet kush.

For the uninitiated though, let’s take a moment to clarify a few terms.

“CBD”
short for cannabidiol.

It’s the “medicine” in “medical marijuana”, and in WHO’s opinion, “there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD”.

“THC”
short for tetrahydrocannabinol.

This is the “psychoactive” part of marijuana which means it takes your bad day and turns it into a marginally nicer one by reintroducing you to a wide spectrum of concepts; chief among which are sometimes love, peace, eternal sunshine, and copious amounts of chocolatey brownies. It’s pretty much the entire point of marijuana for some people including me.

Medically, WHO thinks more research is needed on the neuropharmacology of THC. They do however say that it has the potential to impair cognitive development and psychomotor performance but has also demonstrated therapeutic effects for everything from nausea in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS to uses similar to antidepressants, appetite stimulants, anticonvulsants and anti-spasmodics.

Hemp

This is the tricky one, and where all the magic happens that results in bhaang balls getting legally delivered to people’s houses.

Hemp is the shy cousin of the marijuana plant.

See when it’s in the west, it is very well-behaved. According to Healthline, “The term “hemp” is used to mean cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight.”

But like every shy cousin of yours, this one also turns into a wild parti boi probably named Ranveer when it’s home.

In India, hemp means “bhaang”.

In both sides of the public interest litigation filed in 2018 against Mehta Ayurvedic Sansthan to ban the sale of “Sanan Pachak Vati “ a ball like substance made of hemp and dry fruit, the one thing that both parties agreed on was that Hemp is Bhaang. The litigant only brought into question whether it should be sold in an open market, considering it’s an intoxicant.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that no case for issuing any direction was made, since technically it isn’t a prohibited substance. A similar judgement was delivered in Maharashtra last year.

Which somehow means that, in a weird way, it’s completely legal for me to buy bhaang balls online from Mehta Ayurvedic Sansthan.

You will not believe what happens next.

An image of the white bhaang ball box kept on my book. It's sparse, no designs except Sanan Relief's logo and the product name: Mewa Modak Vati.

It is a white box, couriered to my home via Delhivery with tracking numbers and OTPs and all the jazz that comes with online delivery.

A blurb titled Our Story reads “The immense benefits of cannabis are mentioned in the ancient texts of Atharvaveda. Taking the age old knowledge of the scriptures with modern medicine, Sanan Relief started to bring the goodness of medical cannabis. To you and the world.”

A side shot of the Sanan box which lists out Benefits, Ingredients, Manufacturer, Marketing details and other license information.

Open it up and, y’all, it’s just 30 individually plastic-wrapped balls of bhaang mixed with mewa (dry fruit). Don’t get me wrong. I love the convenience, the product design, the minimalism of the box, the unboxing experience. I love it all.

But it’s bhaang mixed with mewa.

An interior shot of the box.

It tastes… not great. The mewa is trying to unsuccessfully accomplish an impossible task: masking the grassy taste of the 10% cannabis leaf that’s the main hero here whose benefits apparently include “relieving / managing pain, relaxing mind and body, improving sleep disorders, improving appetite, and improving concentration.”

Some of the ball sticks to my teeth, easy to wash down with whatever liquid is within arm’s reach (except alcohol, I try not to mix those two). The effects do not kick in immediately.

It’s a slow rising high, similar to my experience with CBD oil which I sourced from another online Indian pharmacy called CBD Store a few months ago.

ISO registered in May 2020, CBD Store is your one-stop shop for CBD oil, “Vijaya Extract” (Cannabis) products, hemp clothing and, for some definitely very medicinal reason, a large variety of psychedelic wallpapers.

A screenshot of CBD Store's various psychedelic wallpapers.

The first thing CBD Store asks you is whether you’re above 18 years old.

I want to lie but my mouse don’t lie so I say Yes.

Top of the page is a sight you will see quite often on online cannabis pharmacies: a list of doctors who will help you decide what your dosage should be.

You can book an appointment with any of them for a measly charge of Rs 350, down from Rs 675 back in October 2020.

A screenshot of CBD Store's doctors.
A screenshot of a purchase made on CBD Store. The line item reads "1st time Doctor Consultation Charge - Dr Tahir) for Rs 675.

My call with Dr Tahir was quite pleasant. Seemed like a nice guy. We spoke about my marijuana usage, mental health history, and a clarification of their products.

He wrote me a prescription for “4:1 CBD:THC Oil” and that was that.

For my math-averse audiences, the equation above translates to “four parts CBD (medicinal compound) for every part of THC (psychoactive compound)”.

A picture of the bottle of CBD oil obtained from CBD Store.

Since October 2020, I’ve ordered the same CBD Oil from them a few times. You’re supposed to fill the dropper to the required dosage and put the oil under your tongue until it completely dissolves.

It tastes terrible and I have clinically diagnosed ADD so it’s quite the ordeal to sit still and wait for my tongue to reverse salivate.

My tongue has no experience with reverse salivation.

Speaking of reverse salivation, the bhaang ball just hit.

It has a similar effect as CBD oil on me: a sense of being present, an increased appetite for slow, percussive, bass-heavy music, a dry throat, and a calming down of my mind.

As someone who suffers from a veritable cocktail of diagnosed mental conditions (general anxiety, depression, borderline, and ADD to be specific) along with the dysphoria that comes from being trans in a cis world, this slowing down of cognitive processes is what drew me to substances to begin with.

At this point, let me re-iterate exactly 0% of this piece is medical advice.

First cigarettes, then alcohol, then weed, and now, in the decluttering phase of my life, I’m experimenting with oils and edibles.

To be honest, I would like, no I would LOVE, to not have any dependencies. To not need my hourly nicotine lozenges, morning coffee, afternoon anti-depressant, evening Maggi, and nightly bhaang balls.

I would LOVE to not be dependent on these things.

But I also kinda need to acknowledge that my dependencies before these medicinal marijuana products used to include at least 20 cigarettes a day and about 5 joints.

The trade-off makes sense for me.

I can breathe again, even if it’s NCR air that I’m breathing.

By the way, did I mention that exactly 0% of this piece is medical advice.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from the people who sell this stuff:

A screenshot of the list of disclosures on CBD Store.

These kinds of disclosures are common among the online cannabis pharmacies I reviewed for this piece, and personal use.

Here’s one from HempCann-developed Cannapain (pills with cannabis oil) that warns potential users about its status as a Schedule E1 drug and requires you to absolve the company of any “harm or any liability resulting from the use of this medicine”.

Btw “Schedule E1” refers to “a list of poisonous substances under the Ayurvedic (including Siddha)  and Unani Systems of Medicine”. That’s all it is even though the term itself sounds scary, and in theory, you’re allowed access to these drugs if you’ve got a prescription. Though why bhaang is in the same category as arsenic in India is probably too complicated for my dumbass brain.

A screenshot of Cannapain's product page featuring almost a page long self-declaration HempCann needs you to agree to, before a purchase.

But at least they warn you about its Schedule E1 status and ask you to make a declaration.

Remember this picture from above? Temme if you notice anything.

Eagle-eyed audiences, congratulations! Others, I’ll stop being shitty now and tell you what I’m talking about: right above the “Caution” section is a line in Hindi casually dropping the fact that you are currently in possession of a Schedule E1 drug. Y’all there is no mention of this fact anywhere on Sanan’s website.

But why stop at Sanan’s website.

There is no talk of “Sanan” and “Schedule E1” on the entire goddamn internet.

Two results. Two.

I’m not here to allege conspiracies or some nonsense.

It’s just, this entire journey has been absurd from the get-go.

Quick recap:

  1. Marijuana is illegal in this country.
  2. But not all marijuana.
  3. The variant Hindus like to chug as a yearly tradition, is kinda not illegal on a technicality.
  4. Sometimes, marijuana can help people alleviate pain or other mental health issues.
  5. You can buy these products online in India with very little effort from websites who proudly state “sourced directly from the government”.
  6. But we can’t have policy about it because Goa’s Youth Congress president is afraid people will become Pablo Escobars.
  7. Meanwhile, you can go to CBD Store right now and buy Jaguars Breath.
  8. Have I told you about Jaguars Breath? Let me tell you about Jaguars Breath.

CBD Store sells a Cannabis oil called Jaguars Breath which promises the following:

  • Relief from chronic pain
  • Regulates and prevents diabetes
  • Fights cancer
  • Helps treat depression
  • Regulates seizures
  • Helps with ADHD/ADD
  • Helps arthritis patients deal with the pain
  • Helps with PTSD symptoms
  • Helps provide relief to individual with multiple sclerosis
  • Helps with alcoholism
  • Slows the development of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Shows promise in Autism treatment

This isn’t even half of the product description but, of course it inevitably ends with

A screenshot of text that reads: WARNING:
This product is not intended to cure, treat or prevent any illness. Do not use this as a replacement to your ongoing medical treatment.

Now, do you know why it’s called Jaguars Breath? Unlike most of the other products on CBD Store, Jaguars Breath has a 2 : 1 THC : CBD ratio. Math-averse audiences, that means for every part of CBD (medicinal compound), Jaguars Breath has two parts of THC (psychoactive compound).

It’s designed to get you fucked up.

So of course, they call it Jaguars Breath and give it a description that says “made for the adventurous ones“ but also sell it on the same website that sells medicinal blends.

The problem I’m having here isn’t conservative heart-clutching over marijuana usage. I’m all about a good time y’all, but I do also happen to believe that “medicinal marijuana” as a concept needs clarity over policy, medicinal effects, and research.

Apart from these disclaimers, the next thing all these online cannabis pharmacies have in common is their primary messaging which can be boiled down to “this is AYUSH and Ayurveda-approved therefore it must be awesome”. That is a dangerous mindset with which to be entering the discussion about medicinal marijuana because AYUSH will sell you cow piss.

In 2019, they were very seriously researching whether cow piss can cure cancer. The current Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey said on September 7th 2019, “Cow urine is used in the preparation of several types of medicines. It is used even for the treatment of incurable disease like cancer. The urine of the indigenous variety of cow is often used. The Ministry of AYUSH is seriously working on it”

I wouldn’t trust Ashwini with being serious about medicinal marijuana research in the same way I wouldn’t ingest JAGUARS BREATH with the earnest idea to cure myself of anything but a boring evening.

I have described my history with substances here for a reason.

As a recreational user transitioning into medicinal usage, I am very susceptible to categorising myself as an “adventurous one”, get Jaguars Breath with the same prescription I use for the rest, and fuck up my life.

The only one amongst these websites that takes the medicinal discussion even remotely seriously is HempCann.

While it’s insane in its self-declaration policies, it is also the clearest among the bunch which is why most of the reviews on their products are people grateful for their pain alleviation.

But even there, you will occasionally find cases like these:

“Had it for my period pain, woke up with a crazy bad trip. Couldn’t function for next 2 days, disorientation, weird sensations, mind and body functioning in a different rhythm. Had to call in sick at work. And above all pain didn’t subside at all. Called the company, since I was scared to death about what had happened but their cust service said that if you haven’t consumed marijuana before this is normal. If that is the case- why not put it on the box? Not for first time cannabis users. Surprised this stuff is so easily available just by signing a declaration! Progressive India but risky one too!”

The thing with psychoactive substances is that they hit different, and we need to exercise some level-headedness regarding their usage. Buying a prescription from the store that also sells you the drug is pretty much how my dealer operates.

We need to move away… I need to move away from dealers, and towards an environment where the foundation for marijuana policy is stronger than “hey bhaang isn’t technically illegal”.

Thank you for reading.

I’m out of ideas for how to make this end all nice.

So let me take this opportunity to remind you again,

Exactly 0% of this piece is medical advice.

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