Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Sunday proposed legalising cultivation of hemp to create employment and investment opportunities in the state.
Presenting the budget for 2021-22 in the assembly, the CM, who also holds the finance portfolio, proposed filling up all functional posts in the government, increased focus on employability in tourism, horticulture and industry, and steps to revive the state’s COVID-hit economy.
It was Thakur’s fourth budget in a row and second to be presented digitally.
Legalising hemp cultivation will lead to an economic boom as thousands of families depend on it, the CM said in his budget speech.
“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 said.
IANS news agency quoted experts as saying that selective cultivation of cannabis and poppy could generate revenues of ₹800 crore to ₹900 crore annually.
More than 60 per cent of the poppy and cannabis produced in Himachal is smuggled abroad, it said, adding the rest finds its way to Nepal or other Indian states like Goa, Punjab and Delhi.
The CM did not propose any new tax in the ₹50,192 crore budget, which has left a deficit of ₹7,789 crore. The debt burden of the state is at an all-time high at ₹60,500 crore. Thakur admitted that the economy had suffered due to the COVID-induced lockdown, and that efforts were underway to revive the economy.