A couple of years back, in 2014 Priya Mishra aka Hempvati got diagnosed with lymphocytic tuberculosis. Her neck was pretty swollen and at one point it got so bad that she had no movement whatsoever. But after one week of smoking up(because of her insistent stoner friends), she started to get some movement in her neck. That’s exactly when she started to take in what cannabis can do. “It didn’t take more than five hours for me to figure out that it can even cure cancer tumors and stuff like that,” she said. She started looking at research papers and at people’s videos who had recovered.
Hempvati is India’s first female cannabis activist. She hails from Mumbai but was born in Delhi, she has had a nomad childhood because her parents worked in government services and in the media industry. She believes that this lifestyle of hers has greatly helped her learn “what happens and what doesn’t happen” across the country. She was a media employee as well, or rather, a celebrity manager, her last “big boss” was Manish Malhotra. That was before her tuberculosis diagnosis, after recovering she joined Huma Qureshi as a celebrity manager for a while.
“No matter how educated, spiritual, religious a person may be, everyone has at least one stoner friend in their group. I was no different I had certain stoner friends in my group, I was an occasional stoner. Like once in a purple moon, with 3-4 drags I would become a laughing Buddha. It was definitely not something that I was looking at with a medicinal point of view.”
When her condition started deteriorating, she was not given any painkillers because her medicines would react with the painkillers. “So the only option as per my friends was ‘It’s high time, you just take this (cannabis) and this will definitely help you’. And though they were stoners they were not aware of the medical benefits of the plant but they knew for a fact that it relaxes your body, it relaxes your mind”, she said. In the following months she moved to Bangalore and within a year she had cured herself.
“…I moved away from my family, because like everyone else who is an Indian will understand (that) the family will never understand this, that the child is smoking this. (Smoking was my only option) because I had no access to oil. I tried my level best to get connected with people who were selling oil five years back but I couldn’t find a source that I could trust.”
However, over the years, things have changed. She now has permission to smoke in the house. “My mother sees how many patients I’ve helped and consulted. If you’re not a doctor and you still get messages from patients saying that their tumor reduced to half its size in two months, ‘because of your consultation I got connected to the right people at the right time and got the medicine’. I’m sure your parents would be on cloud nine as well.”
“Apart from tuberculosis, I have Polycystic ovary syndrome/disorder, 60-70% of the women in the country and outside are suffering from it. Irregular periods, your ovaries get enlarged and everything, for gynaec issues it has helped me massively.”
Adding to that she said, “I’m a rider, I’ve met with an accident so many times. The first thing I really do is, if I’m in Himachal I take bhang leaves and rub it with ghee and a little turmeric, (applying) that really helps the wound heal faster.”
“I have literally done a door to door survey, in that we realized that 70-80% of the legal voting population is against legalizing cannabis.” She goes on to discuss how if someone was to go to an average Indian household and ask them whether they would support the government if it tried to legalize cannabis, how many do you think will support legalization? “They will pull down the government at that time itself and say ‘Hamare bacho ko charsi bana rahe hai (They’re making cannabis addicts out of our children)” she said. The same thing happened in a couple of cities before she moved on to third-tier cities. What she noticed is that as the cities get smaller and smaller the percentage of people supporting legalization decreases.
“And if we talk about the social media generation, we’re talking about only 20% of those people who are going out, for the rest of the 80% you have to step into their comfort zones like universities, hospitals, and colleges to educate them”, she saw that nobody else was doing that, she got completely cured and that happened because she experimented. “I was well educated and well aware so I thought I might as well tap onto this. That was because I wanted to volunteer to begin with I contacted BOHECO, I contacted GLM (Great Legalization Movement), I contacted a few more. GLM turned around and said that they could use my help, for three and a half months I was taking care of all the female patients and kid patients because I was the only female volunteer out there.”
She believes that we need to involve doctors, unless and until doctors are educated about cannabis we can’t move forward. Apart from that, we need to educate people in every socio-economic class of India about the reality of cannabis. The bottom line is, India is a democracy, and if we want to change things we need to influence the majority of the population, make them realize that legalization will be beneficial for everyone.