scorecardFrom Weed To Wellness: Cannabis is no longer a bad word thanks to startups like Trost that promise to bring solace to users
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From Weed To Wellness: Cannabis is no longer a bad word thanks to startups like Trost that promise to bring solace to users

From Weed To Wellness: Cannabis is no longer a bad word thanks to startups like Trost that promise to bring solace to users
LifeScience4 min read
  • This startup promises relief to those suffering from nicotine addiction, Parkinsons, chronic pain and anxiety with its cannabis laced products.
  • More than 50 plus startups have mushroomed in India over the last two years after the FSSAI allowed sale of hemp seed or hemp seed oil as food or ingredients in food.
  • Cannabidiol found in hemp products is not a psychoactive substance that gives a “high”. CBD has medicinal properties and can be used as therapy for many ailments.

If you are looking to kick the butt, but are finding it hard to do so, you may consider switching to “hemp rollens” – cigarettes made from cannabis leaves and flowers. And it is perfectly legal. Trost, a two-year old startup, sells a variety of products made from cannabis that promise to give relief from epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and even autoimmune disorders.

Says Harshal Goel, Founder of Trost, a startup that produces therapeutic products derived from hemp extracts, “Cannabidiol or CBD has a plethora of benefits because it has medicinal benefits. From epilepsy to Parkinsons, CBD can help people. It also helps to manage chronic pain.” Not surprising that he has named his startup Trost – which means solace in German. Today, consumers can find solace in CBD laced chocolates and protein powders too.

In 2021, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issued a notification that said hemp seed, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour could be sold as food or used as an ingredient in food products provided that they conformed to stipulated standards. Following which startups are now selling hemp-based protein powders too and not just hemp-based herbal cigarettes.

Ayurvedic blend of potent herbs

The concept of hemp cigarettes is rooted in "Dhuma Yoga," an Ayurvedic blend of five potent herbs including cannabis, datura, henbane, vasa, and cavya - to create a distinct form of smoke therapy called Dhumapana. According to Trost, burning these herbs creates smoke that the user inhales and exhales through their nose and mouth. According to some ayurveda aficionados, this therapy can enhance respiratory health. It is not just in India that CBD is becoming acceptable. The future of cannabis was also discussed at the World Economic Forum in 2020.

Traditionally, cannabis has been seen as a means of getting “high”, but researchers have also found medicinal use cases of the plant, provided the presence of psychoactive substance THC is negligible. Hemp should not be confused with marijuana as it also contains negligible amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which gives a “high.” Consumption of hemp flowers and extracts like CBD oil or hemp seed oil are legal in India, provided they do not contain 0.3% of THC. This is booming business now for more than 50 startups in India that seek to bring solace to Indians battling anxiety or chronic pain.

Harshal Goel, Founder, Trost

Cannabis: A licensed business

Several states in India have legalised cultivation of industrial hemp. In 2018, Uttrakhand legalised its production and soon Uttar Pradesh followed suit. In April 2023, the state government of Himachal Pradesh also decided to legalise the cultivation of cannabis to boost the local economy. The Ministry of AYUSH is also issuing licences to startups that want to offer CBD products as cures for a variety of ailments. To buy these products, you need to have a prescription from an ayurvedic doctor.

Like Trost, most of the startups have mushroomed in the last few years. In 2017, Harshal Goel, then a student at City University, London, learned about Switzerland's legalisation of low-THC cannabis. Intrigued, he visited Switzerland to explore the plant's potential and legal framework. Inspired by the innovation around cannabis products like chocolates and creams, Goel launched medicinal herbal hemp cigarettes in Switzerland. After seeing the success of his venture in Switzerland, he returned to India and founded Trost to offer natural, plant-based products as therapies.

If you have recently visited Thailand, you must’ve noticed cannabis shops sprouting like wild weed. The country decriminalised marijuana or ganja in June 2022 and it has given its economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, a big boost. The decriminalisation, like in many states in the US, was first done in 2018 for medical purposes.

Hemp rollens or herbal cigarettes is its most popular product because it helps smokers kick the butt, even though the experience of smoking rollens is very different from a tobacco cigarette. But Trost may be the future of the likes of tobacco majors like ITC.

The promise of this pudding can be gauged from the $650 mn that Philip Morris, a global tobacco major, is committing to acquire a cannabis company based in Israel. According to reports in July 2023, Philip Morris is close to acquiring medical marijuana inhaler maker, Syqe Medical, for $650 mn. This would not be the first investment Philip Morris has made in the company as it has earlier invested $20 mn in a company that offered metered inhaler doses of medical marijuana for pain management.

Fastest growing plant on the planet

Cannabidiol may be new to India, but cannabis is not. In fact, leaves of the female cannabis plant is known as “bhang” which is also offered to Lord Shiva. But startups like Trost are not offering that kind of solace. Trost is a D2C startup that not only offers CBD based therapies but also sells tobacco-free rollens made from cannabis Not only do these cigarettes help deal with nicotine addiction, it also promises to calm the nerves and have a relaxing effect. Industrial hemp is a botanical class of cannabis, which is often used in medicines to relieve anxiety, stress and pain. No wonder, apart from bamboo, hemp is the fastest growing plant on the planet. Interestingly, hemp also contains THC but not in the same quantity as marijuana does.

While Trost may be promising solace to a post-pandemic world where anxiety and stress are as common as cold and flu, these hemp startups cannot advertise. To create more awareness around their products, they are even looking at offline stores. Hemp and cannabis startups like Trost, Boheco, Happie Herb, Cannary, Wildleaf and Oreka are members of an industry body called Pan India Medical Cannabis and Hemp Association (PIMCHA) to educate governments on the benefits of medicinal cannabis and root for the industry’s cause through legal reforms.