Legality of Marijuana in India

Cannabis in India has been used since as early as 2000 BCE. In India cannabis has been given various names and types over thousands of years, hemp, marijuana, bhang, charas, ganja and so forth. Cannabis was a part of India, especially in the Hindu religion, used in the form of charas (resin), bhang (seeds), and ganja (cannabis flower).
In India, the most widely used form of cannabis is in the form of a bhang used to make ‘Thandai,’ a milkshake mixed with cannabis seeds and leaves, consumed at Holi and Shivratri Hindu festivals, Hola Mohalla Sikh festival, and other festive types.

Law on Marijuana

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985(1), is the central law dealing with cannabis (weed or marijuana) in India. Nonetheless, various states have their own regulations surrounding the use, possession, selling or purchase of marijuana or weed. Throughout India, possession of such substances is usually considered a illegal act, which can cause you serious legal trouble.
Odisha, for example, is a state where marijuana is legal in India and people usually use ‘chillums’ to smoke cannabis within the jurisdiction of the state. Uttarakhand is India’s first State to permit commercial Hemp cultivation. Since it is a rich crop needing less water, several other hilly states are considering the proposal to allow regulated Hemp and marijuana cultivation.
Cannabis has been described as the cannabis plant’s flowering or fruiting top, from which the resin was not extracted. That excludes seeds and leaves if they do not form the top portion. By this concept ‘bhang’ is not a part of the cannabis plant and thus ‘bhang’ is consumed openly in India on various religious occasions.

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Why is marijuana illegal in India? Can it be legalized?

Indians have a spiritual and medicinal association very powerful with Marijuana. It’s been a part of our festivities and culture here for decades. In 1986, under pressure from the US medicinal lobby, Govt of India gave in to create stringent narcotic laws that made the country’s sale, manufacture, and transportation illegal.
Since then there has been argument for or against legalizing this drug. The law was unable to make a real difference although a legal source of state income was shifted to international drug cartels.
In Himachal Pradesh approximately 60,000 kg of hash and 40,000 kg of opium are produced according to the estimate. Just 500 kgs of that are captured annually. The govt can add to state income by making it legal, it can also support the local economies of hilly states with little water, and the immense demand for this drug can be legally satisfied by the the unlawful crimes associated with this industry.
What is the punishment for carrying drugs (Weed or Marijuana) in India?
Under section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the production, sale/purchase, transport, interstate import/export or any other commercial activity of cannabis in 1985 is punishable;
• For holding a small quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10,000 or both.
• For holding more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
• For holding commercial quantity, but slightly less than commercial quality, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.

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What if India Legalize Marijuana?

• It prevents drug trade and associates crimes with it. Legalization of marijuana (or decriminalization) will replace production and distribution on the black market with a ‘overboard industry.’ There will be laws and regulations, but trade will be ‘populated by government, producers, traders, and retailers, not by criminals or drug traffickers.’

• Marijuana dependence is rare, an epidemiological study showed that only 9 percent of marijuana users end up clinically dependent on it. The ‘comparable levels’ were 32 percent, 15 percent and 16 percent respectively for tobacco, alcohol and cocaine.

• Taxing marijuana would boost government’s revenue, through legalizing and taxing marijuana, the government will stand to gain massive sums of money that will otherwise go to the Italian and Israeli drug cartels.

• This will create employment opportunities. There are a plethora of jobs that the marijuana industry can create and help to reduce the unemployment rate in India.

• Studies have shown that there are dozens of health benefits to marijuana use. It treats glaucoma, prevents the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, reduces anxiety, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, improves metabolism and is even said to spur creativity in our brain.

• Marijuana is the only source of revenue for many locals in states like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow. Being a controlled substance, however, the farmers are forced to sell it to the drug traffickers at a very cheap price and they face extra pressure from the police, who are paid to destroy the cannabis plantations. Legalizing marijuana will put an end to this ‘war on drugs’ which targets our own people.

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• In India, dealers sometimes combine hash and cannabis with chemicals or other medicines such as afeem to enhance the stuff’s taste, colour, texture or ‘hot.’ Legalization will increase the standard of marijuana sold to consumers as the government will control the cannabis production and sales.

• Consumption of marijuana has never been seen any more as a morally deviant activity than drinking alcohol. In fact, it was considered a ‘enlightened view’ to keep it legal. Marijuana is now medically proven to be less harmful than alcohol. The stoners, unlike alcoholics, do not engage in reckless driving or aggressive fights. They seem to be calm and friendly, under marijuana’s influence.

However, there have been more problems arising by making it illegal. Sure, marijuana should be kept away from children, but it would not present any danger to adults with its moderate use.Instead of wasting money on prosecuting drug traffickers and curtailing marijuana cultivation, why can’t our government save itself from all this trouble and legalize a culturally acceptable product that can support the country’s socio-economic development?

Author: AVI SHRIVASTAVA,
Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal 1st Year

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