KOZHIKODE: Imagine you walk into a cafe and order a ‘ganja milkshake’ and some momos and spring rolls that are made of ganja as the main ingredient. This might sound weird as ganja is illegal in India but at the Hemp Station at Gujarati street in Kozhikode, you will get a milkshake made out of milk extracted from hemp seeds.
The first-of-its-kind Hemp Station is the brainchild of Midhun, 35, and Dr Subasish Damodhar, 30, natives of Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur, respectively. The two who have dedicated their lives promoting sustainable living are on a voyage to spread the importance of hemp and all its byproducts which is being used in more than 10,000 commercial establishments for various uses. The duo was the first to introduce hemp to the food industry.
In November last year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) approved hemp as an ingredient in a food for sale. Hemp seed, hemp seed oil, hemp milk and hemp seed flour are among the options to be used in food. It was after this approval the duo started seriously researching on various dishes that could be made out of hemp and the first thing that hit them was the hemp seed-infused milkshake.
“Will hemp make you high is the question asked often to us,” says Subasish. A majority of Indians, including our officials, still think that hemp and marijuana or ganja (weed) are the same thing and people still check on the internet to find if hemp can also make them high just like ganja. It has to be noted that ganja and hemp are similar but they differ in significant ways.
Both hemp and weed belong to the same species — Cannabis Sativa — and the two plants look somewhat similar. The psychoactive components in both the plants are very distant, as the maximum Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC level in hemp is 0.3 per cent or less when compared to ganja or weed. This also means that hemp-derived products don’t have enough THC to create the high traditionally associated with ganja.
He further said, “Hemp milkshakes are the most sought-after drink in our cafe and our clients keep asking us about the relationship between hemp and weed.”
Recalling an incident when they were caught by the police, Subasish said, “While returning from TKM Fest (TKM Engineering College festival) in Kollam where we had set up a Hemp Station stall, we were caught. The police were conducting a special inspection when they checked our vehicle and found hemp seeds. Since the hemp seeds look just like ganja seeds, they took us to the police station and we had to spend a night in the jail explaining them about hemp and its legality in India. It was after long hours of discussion and debate that we were finally released. The incident is still a nightmare.”
Hemp seeds are particularly rich in healthy fats, including linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Both these fats are known for improving heart health by reducing cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. When compared to fish oil, the major source of omega-3, hemp is considered more healthier as it is extracted from plant-based sources. Midhun and Subashish are also the founders of Pupa bags, the Kerala-based sustainable brand that makes bags out of hemp. Pupa bags were their first initiative with hemp before they ventured into Hemp Station. Subashish is a homoeo doctor by profession and Midhun a chef.