Legal status of Marijuana in India?
Author : Gaurav Dua
Marijuana has such deep roots in India that’s origin can be traced back to 1700 BCE, this means marijuana is being consumed by Indians for almost 5000 years. With the changing of time people have given it different names like cannabis, weed, ganja but have used it for one purpose only, for its high.
The use can be traced back to the vedic period, the Rigveda has highly praised the consumption of a highly intoxicating drink which is said to have been made from cannabis.
The atharvaveda in fact mentioned bhang (is an edible preparation of cannabis. It has been used in food and drink) as one of the 5 sacred plants that relieve anxiety. Even Sushruta in the 600 BCE mentioned its medicinal properties and stated it can be used to treat catarrh, phlegm and diarrhoea.
What is the legal status of Marijuana in India?
In simple words, marijuana is illegal in India.
It all started in 1961 when the United States of America startedits campaign to have a global law against all drugs, both hard and soft.In 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was signed which became the first international treaty which not only clubbed marijuana with hard drugs but also imposed a ban on its production, consumption and distribution, thereby restricting their use to medicinal and research purposes.
India had a great history regarding consumption of of ganja, charas and bhang, and this now had become a way of life in India. So India led a group of countries which produced cannabis and opium to oppose the drastic measure taken by the international community which impeded the sociocultural use of organic drugs. But unfortunately they were inundated by the U.S and other western countries which supported US’s stand to espouse tight controls on the production and illicit trafficking of organic drugs.
Though attempts had been made in the past to at criminal cannabis and mooted, in 1838, 1871, and 1877 but that when India was still a colony of Britain. And this time the matter wasn’t confined to a single country, we were talking about a group of countries opposing another group of countries.
In 1970 the Congress in United States passed a federal law declaring the use and possession of weed illegal, the act came to be known as the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
After withstanding the pressure of the US for almost 25 years to keep weed legal, Rajiv Gandhi government gave in and enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985. Before this weed and its other derivatives were sold legally through retails shops in India.
This act did prevent use of marijuana India to an extent but acted as guiding light for hard drugs. Peddlers now started peddling smack and other hard rugs because the risk was same but the profits were much higher. The legislation paved way for drug problem in India.
The NDPS Act makes the sale and cultivation of cannabis, resin and flowers illegal but remains silent on leaves and seeds of cannabis plant, while giving states the power to regulate
For instance, Odisha is a state in which cannabis consumption is not legal per say but people commonly use chillums to smoke weed within the state’s territory. A similar scenario can be seen in various parts of Uttarakhand. In fact Uttarakhand has recently legalised cannabis cultivating for industrial purposes due to rise in demand of hemp products.
And many states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha have legalised consumption of bhang which is often sold through government authorised shops.
Also the High court of Chandigarh, in the case of, Arjun Singh v. State of Haryana (2004), held that bhang did not fall under the meaning of “cannabis” as defined in the NDPS Act but is a cannabis plant and the act didn’t impose any penalty on consumption of cannabis leaves.
Another interesting point to note is that the act remains silent on the harvesting of cannabis plant leaves in the wild. So it all comes down to the loopholes in law which only bans the buds and resin.
Doesn’t consumption of marijuana hamper your mental development and has an adverse effect on your brain?
This is nothing but an old wives tale. If we were to go by facts then I must mention about the recent study carried published in the journal Nature Medicine by the scientists at the University of Bonnthat small doses of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive constituent of cannabis) helps in reversing the cognitive decline. This could further help in treating dementia.
In 2015 the Journal of Neuroscience published a brain imaging study which reported that no adverse change took place in the brain of people who consumed weed, whereas the brain images of people who were given alcohol instead alcohol showed deleterious effects on their cognitive ability and on the morphology of their brain.
Another joint study carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois & the University of Chicago found that problems of stressed mind can be relieved through consumption of weed as marijuana contains stress relieving properties. People who took part in the trial had less stress after their psychosocial test than the people who were a part of the placebo group.
Let us also not forget the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease which recorded the evidence of THC slowing the production of beta amyloid proteins which can lead to progression of Alzheimer’s disease..
There was another study which was carried out to record the effects of alcohol &marijuana on the brain structure. The study was carried out jointly by researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Colorado, Boulder. In their clinical tries they tried evaluating neuroimaging data of adults (18 to 55years of age) and adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) and recorded negative changes in their brain structure. No such identification was recorded in case of cannabis.
In fact it is said that use of marijuana spurs the creative side of a person. The Rastafarians call it the supreme herb because of its healing properties.According to them ganja can be used to induce feelings of peace and love. They also claim that consumption of weed helps one in cultivating a form of personal introspection which allows the user to discover their true divinity.
Many big musicians including Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Drake have been known to consume weed before recording their music.
Why has there been a recent push in its legalisation?
In a last few years the campaign to get marijuana legalised in India has kicked up again due to 2 reasons, one being that the country (USA) which originally pushed for its ban is now legalising the use of the drug in its jurisdiction, not only for medicinal purposes but for recreational use as well. And what US has I what Indians want. The other reason for the push is the releasing of fresh mind boggling data on use of cannabis.
One of the most promising and revolutionary study in the field of marijuana has been the one conducted by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Their study focuses on military veterans who have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study conducted by them has found that vets who had substituted cannabis for other prescriptive and more addictive drugs, felt more relived, relaxed and happy, thereby eliminating their dependence on pharmaceutical drugs. Cannabis helped the vets participating in the trial to replace the N number of drugs they were taking with only 1 drug i.e. marijuana.
ICAN, an Israeli company has come up with an inhaler which they have named the ICANsleep device, which has squirts a small quantity of the drug into the lungs, which is enough to create a sedative effect without getting the user high. Also unlike sleeping pills available in the market, the inhaler doesn’t leave its users with a muzzy feeling when they wake up in the morning.
Recently a few researchers at Michigan State University published their findings in the journal AIDS. In their research they concluded that THC was a magical drug when it came to patients of HIV as it slowed the mental decline of people suffering from the disease. The study also provides evidence as to how the drug can be used the deterioration which people suffer because of the virus.
Then there is also the effect cannabis has on inflammation of organs and nerves. Researchers from North Shore Medical Center published their findings in which they documented anti inflammatory properties of the drug which can be used to treat most of neurological diseases. The study thenprogressed to the second phase where the research revealed more consumption of meant lesser chances of developing liver diseases.
Other than this the godly herb has had success in treating patients suffering from asthma, migraine, parkinsons disease, insomnia, glaucoma, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and cancer by preventing the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, improving metabolism and reducing anxiety.
Why should marijuana be legalised?
If India decides to legalise marijuana then the benefits will outweigh the disadvantages by a huge margin. By the legalisation of the drug India stands to gain on the following fronts;
A study conducted by 3 economists, using the data from Federal Beureu of Investigation’s uniform crime reports found that after legalisation of weed in states bordering Mexico, like California, violent crime fell by 15%, in other states the reduction was 7%-10%. Homicides saw an average drop of 10%, and murder witnessed a drop of 19%.
India too can benefit from this model with states like Punjab, Assam, West Bengal, Rajasthangetting direct benefit of the legalisation
The state of Colorado created 10,000 jobs in the field of marijuana in the form of growers, dispensary runners and other way. Marijuana industry like any other industry offers a plethora of jobs which can help in the reduction of India’s unemployment rate. The state of Himachal Pradesh produces 60,000kg of Hashish and 40,000kg of opium yearly, and these are the government figures, the actual figures are way higher than this. The natives use more than 2000 hectares of land illegally possessed forest land, for the cultivation of cannabis plant. The natives who have no other source of income are then forced to sell their product at a much cheaper price to the drug dealers and face pressure from the local police as well.The legalisation while keeping the forest area intact, will allow the farmers of Himachal Pradesh to grow the plant legally and sell its produce to the customers in a more carefree manner without the fear of being put behind the bars and ensuring they get the best price for the produce.
The government, be legalising cannabis, will bring it in its ambit forming its own policy, tracking its distribution, regulating the trade and giving a boost to the economy.
The state of Oregon reported around $200 million worth of sale of marijuana in its first year of legalisation which roughly translates to ₹1.3 billion of revenue, out which the government earned approximately $50 million.
Canada which recently passed a legislation to make the drug legal has estimated $400 million of tax which will be generated through legalisation
If the data is applied in Indian context, the government will be making as much as the drug kingpins do, but only legally.
A report published by the Society for the Study of Addiction which collected data from World Health Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found that marijuana had much less consequences to human health than alcohol and tobacco.
Consumption of tobacco and alcohol possess far greater risk than consumption of marijuana does and yet it is sold over the counter and consumers are expected use their discretion regarding their use, then why can’t the same be done for weed. Its not like prohibition on the drug has proved to be successful, in fact it has become a stable source of black income for police officers around India. Despite the ban on the drug the recreation use is widespread in India. Legalisation will in fact help the consumers to get their hands on good quality marijuana which is free from chemicals and other drugs like afeem which the peddlers use to improve the taste, color, high and the texture of the drug. Legalisation will help the government in regulating the production of the drug and thereby providing its citizens with a good quality product.
Now lets debunkanother myth, one about addiction and overdose; one needs to smoke more than 15,000 joints in 15minutes to overdose from the drug, and as far as addiction is concerned, the addiction rate in case of marijuana stands at 7% (even chocolate and caffeine have a higher addiction rate) while the same stands at 19% for alcohol and 27% for tobacco.
What does future hold for Marijuana in the Indian context?
It is my opinion that it is high time we start making efforts to get the drug legalised. US, which started the ban-imposing spree in 1970, started the process of decriminalising, followed by legalisation for medicinal purposes and then recreational purposes in the year 1973. And now in 2018 around 31 states have legalised the drug for medicinal purposes while around 25 states have legalised it for recreational purposes. By the end of 2018, 18 states of the US will be conducting a ballot to get the drug legalised through referendum for medicinal and recreational purposes.
In India the fight for the cause has begun, its the dawn of revolution. In 2014, TathagataSatpathy, a MP from Odisha who is also the chief whip of BijuJanata Dal, admitted he used to smoke cannabis in his college days. The same MP in 2017 wore a kurta made entirely from hemp (a variety of cannabis grown for fibre) and voiced his support for legalisation of marijuana multiple times in the same year.
Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi too extender her support to the cause of getting marijuana legalised for medical purposes, in 2017. In the second meeting of the groups of minsters which met to examine the draft Cabinet note for the National Drug Demand Reduction Policy, she mentioned that it was the right way to curb the problem of drug addiction and at the same time one of the best aids which can be provided to a cancer patient. The same year saw another MP, Dr.Dharamvir Gandhi, file petition for legalisation of possession as well as consumption of marijuana in India. The MP moved a private member’s bill in the parliament which saw support of late BJP MP VinodKhanna. The petition was also supported by RomeshBhattacharji who is the former Commissioner of the Central Bureau of Narcotics. The bill seeks to legalise the drug fro recreational use by separating the clubbing of soft intoxicant from hard drugs.
We can clearly see the influence of the west on India (good influence at last), as the Union government in August 2017 issued a license to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company, to grow cannabis for research purposes. February 2018, saw the Prime Minister’s Office issuing a notification the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare directing them to examine the potential benefits associated with cannabis.
Seeing the recent change in the view of the government it won’t be wrong to say that soon India might too adopt a legislation to provide its citizens with the supreme herb and making lives for most of us much easier, happier and pleasant. I’m sure the if marijuana is legalised then it will take out country to a new “high”.
I’m truly inspired and believe in the words of legendary singer Bob Marley, who once said “Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.”
Cannabis use is recorded in at least 163 countries comprisin ..ising 90% of the world’s population. “It remains the most wideltuused illicit substance globally.”. a UN Report says. Otestomates that 119 million to 224 million adults used cannabis acroos the world in 2010
In words of bob amrletyalchohl is destructiong o a antion whereas as cannibs is healng of a nation
- For Small quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10,000 or both.
- For more than small quantity but less than commercial quality, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
- For Commercial quantity, but less than commercial quality, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.
Strangely, the Legislature, Executive or the Judiciary do not understand that the leaves of cannabis can only grow a cannabis plant, whose cultivation is a penal offence under section 8 & 20 of NDPS Act, 1985.