Friday, December 9th, 2022 12:09:37

Should India decriminalize marijuana?

By Syed Wajid
Updated: March 3, 2021 1:47 pm

Marijuana has many medical benefits and many voices, though against the legalisation of marijuana, support its decriminalisation for its numerous medical boons.

Talking of the illegal drug marijuana to be decriminalised in India is what seeking attention. The government if it takes the issue of decriminalizing marijuana on a serious note it may generate revenue that adds to the GDP.

On the one hand, psychoactive drugs like ecstasy and LSD (Lysergic acid Diethylamide), potentially illegal drugs frequent rave dos. These recreational drugs are known to trigger a quick kick and stay hours with fuelled energy, pleasure, empathy, aggression, euphoria and above all cause drug-induced hallucinations that feed all one’s wild imaginations. The user goes into a flight of trance.  But on the other, marijuana as the Holy books like Vedas talk about a great deal of its medical efficacy.

Speaking of the use of cannabis in India, Dr Deepak Raheja who is a senior psychiatrist and Director  of Hope Care India lays emphasis  saying that marijuana has both long term and short-term effects with regard to brain neurochemistry. In individuals, it produces euphoria, increased appetite, enhancement of sensory perception, difficulties in concentration and impairment of memory. In context to human psyche, cannabis leads to significant changes in thought feeling and behaviour.

It works on the pleasure centres of the brain. The impact may vary from person to person depending upon the frequency and potency of the drug used. He further added that

Cannabis is a psychotropic drug usually used to alter the mood and mind. It slows down the activity of the central nervous system and can be used for medical purposes but there is a significant difference between medical use and dependence on the drug. Medically, cannabis use is recommended by doctors to treat various symptoms such as nausea /vomiting during chemotherapy, improving appetite of HIV/AIDS patients and reducing chronic pain. When asked if it alleviates stress; his answer was that marijuana is a stress buster, but he went on to expound that over a period of time the use of this unchecked stress buster may give rise to the disease of addiction as well.

People’s talk on marijuana

Union Minister, Maneka Gandhi tweeted saying, “Make marijuana legal for medical needs.” Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, Cardiologist and an MP from Patiala had, in 2015 petitioned to legalise the possession and consumption of marijuana in India. In 2017, he moved a private member’s bill to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, which was supported by late actor and BJP MP Vinod Khanna as well as Tathagata Satpathy MP from Odisha BJD.
 “In Ayurveda, since ancient times, parts of cannabis (hemp) have been used for medicinal purposes. So, we are looking at various formulations. We should ponder over the benefits and positive uses of the cannabis plant,” says Acharya Balkrishna, CEO of Patanjali.
 Sunil Gupta, former spokesperson and Law Officer, Tihar Prisons, Delhi, says: “Of late, I am out of JC (Judicial Custody). I have two cases under NDPS pending against me; one of them is coming up next week. Marijuana if legalised or even decriminalized in India like liquor, the crime graph may tilt downward. Peddling and smuggling will plummet almost to zero. The police will not arrest and implicate innocent people under NDPS Act for money. I have met few young boys inside the jail who never knew what it tasted like. Himachal Pradesh, I would say a place highly suitable for cannabis farming. If it is made legal in India, this may pose a threat to many foreign companies dealing in pharmaceutical business; it will curtail their freedom of black marketing.”
Sunny (name changed), a user (arrested, out on bail), says: There are still a plethora of questions left waiting to be answered and who will do that? How long will the nation like India take to initiate the move like many other countries have already done?

Let’s know what marijuana or cannabis is, it is an illegal drug in India. This is made from the dried leaves and of the hemp plant and is believed to produce a pleasant feeling of being relaxed when consumed. Many other countries across the globe have legalised the use of cannabis so has Canada lately.

The drug contains the mind-altering chemical tetra-hydro-cannabinol (THC) that induces relaxation. Several countries have already legalized the drug more for medical than recreational purposes. Taking a quick look at the latest news on marijuana, from how it affects the brain and body, to its potential medical benefits. The focus on human health with Canada’s legalization has highlighted the lack of discussion on the potential effects on freshwater supplies. In a flurry of international news, after years of false starts and political wrangling, it was finally written into law: Justin Trudeau’s administration legalized recreational use of marijuana in Canada.

Besides, a piece of the information that had been shared  was intended to clear up people’s doubts and queries that actually focused on the human health hazards consuming cannabis. When it comes to marijuana, a lot of research has been carried out. In Canada, some legislation exists to limit the use of more than 95 pesticides that can be used by licensed cannabis producers.  In addition, North America’s governments, scientists and industry need to work together to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the effects of marijuana. Taking a closer look to see more clearly the two pictures of the same frame, one who gets his daily fix or a user, second is the peddler who deals in the product and reaps gains.

There are many voices supporting the use of marijuana whereas some have a different opinion; when the correspondent asked Rebecca Memmen John senior advocate, Delhi she has a different stand on the issue. She elaborated on the facts saying that blanket decriminalisation of drug cannabis use can create several health and public safety hazards in a country like India, where there are anyway no strict regulatory authorities to monitor the use of personal intake of drugs. In any event, Statutes like the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act make a distinction between small quantity possession and consumption and possession or sale of large commercial quantities. There have to be overwhelming reasons to justify the change of the regime imposed by the Act. One can’t blindly follow changes in the law brought in by developed countries, better equipped to deal with small quantity users and the potential health hazard caused by consistent use. The number of small quantity users and the repeat usage of cannabis is large in India and they start from a relatively young age, and if the existing regime, with all its inadequacies is changed, it would lead to social and public health chaos. She more categorically mentioned that there is a thin line between a user and a peddler in India. Young, educated, elite party-drug users who have no financial constraints, initially take to these substances only to have a good time and over a period of time they start peddling.

This practice becomes a nuisance for law enforcement officers to track and nab such elements.

Revisiting the history of the hemp plant, it is originally evolved in Central Asia before people introduced the plant into Africa, Europe, and eventually America.

Some Benefit of using Merijuana
Glaucoma, a disease in which a person loses his eyesight can be cured by Smoking marijuana.
Smoking marijuana seems to stimulate the appetite of people suffering from AIDS.
Cancer, studies show that cannabinoids like CBD and THC kill cancer cells in laboratory conditions without harming the healthy cells nearby. Cannabis has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed. The immediate desired effects from consuming cannabis include relaxation and euphoria.
A study reveals that in Ayurveda, bhang is used to treat high blood pressure; the juice is used for lowering intraocular pressure (glaucoma). The juice is also diuretic, and therefore is used in treating inflammations of the bladder and kidney stones. Dried leaf powder is applied on fresh wounds to promote healing. With digestive herbs (like cumin, fennel, anise) bhang can be excellent for stimulating appetite and digestion; with aphrodisiac herbs and foods (almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, saffron) it becomes an excellent aphrodisiac.
 The most startling fact a source reveals that the Holy Quran forbids the use of alcohol and some other intoxicating substances, but the Holy book does not categorically prohibit the use of cannabis.
 Way back in the 14th century, a survey disclosed that the earliest restrictions on cannabis were reported in the Islamic world by the 14th century. It was criminalized in various countries beginning in the 19th century. In the United States in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to cannabis. In 1972, the Dutch government divided drugs into more and less dangerous categories, with cannabis being in the lesser category.

Marijuana is one of the five essential plants mentioned in the Vedas. The earliest mention of cannabis has been found in The Vedas they call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help attain joy and lose fear (Abel, 1980).  God Shiva is associated with cannabis, as many say Shivji ka parshaad.

In the 1830s, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach ache and cure people suffering from cholera. In the late 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout Europe and the United States.

Since 1961, the US has been campaigning for a global law against all drugs, both hard and soft.

On October 7, 2003, the US government patented medical compounds of cannabis plant, vide Patent number – US006630507.

NDPS ACT,1985 2(iii)

Cannabis (hemp) comprises myriads forms used for numerous purposes. Firstly, we talk about charas, a substance, separated resin, either in crude or purified form, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish. Ganja, is the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant.
Besides, section 20 NDPS Act deals with the offences related not only to the consumption but also cultivation, possession, use, sale and purchase, import and export, transportation and warehousing of cannabis, except for medical or scientific purposes.
“I personally feel that the use of marijuana should be decriminalised for many reasons. Once it finds ways to grow back at home (India) as there are weather conditions like temperatures conducive to farming cannabis. This will generate revenues in international market thus strengthening Indian economy. In most cases, the police do not arrest these addicts, arresting an addict means adding to the expenditure of the government that comes from an individual paying tax. There must be a law determining the quantity for commercial purpose and medical need which is particularly notable. The prisons of Tihar have 8 percent inmates booked under NDPS Act. In Delhi it’s rather hyped but in Punjab it’s kind of ritual and many families use this for a child cure. If marijuana is used for commercial purposes, the law ought to intervene but for medicines it should be kept exempted. In India there are medical manufaturers like Himalaya, Patanjali, Hamdard, Dabur etcetera they can use the ‘herb’ for medicinal purposes which will be less expensive than any foreign based allopathic medicine. This will generate revenues back home.

The Indian cannabis drug commission appointed in 1893, far from finding it addictive, hailed cannabis for the “mild euphoria” and “pleasant relaxation” caused by it.

Use of bhang was legal in India, however, the US had been forcing India to ban its production since 1961. The then government Rajiv Gandhi enacted NDPS Act in 1985, (Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.)

This Act has been misused by the police ever since it came into being. Pradeep Mahajan,a veteran journalist, editor-in-chief INS magazine said, “ The police use this Act like a weapon to implicate one as there have been number of cases of this nature seen in the past. Those who cannot afford a bargain with the men in khaki are booked under the Act. The police intimidate and then negotiate.”


As per the sources there are many innocent people languishing in Dasna jail, UP and Tihar Delhi. Consumption, possession, trade and transport of marijuana in India is banned under the NDPS Act 1985 (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances).

“The existing laws need to be amended with particular instructions. The quantum of the marijuana is more important and potentially decisive. There are three different categories that draw a thin line impacting the magnitude of crime. The quantity is an aspect important enough to decide the criminal and malafide intention of the user or peddler. However, in case of a user, the law will decide the quantity whether or not exempted. Cannabis decriminalization can get a push in India depending upon its use whether for medication or pleasure. More importantly, the government may jot a serious note taking in view of Cannabis oil which cures cancer patients, other such benefits as well. I vividly remember that Union Minister Maneka Gandhi extended her support for making marijuana legal in India for medical purposes. This  move was endorsed by the late actor turned politician MP (BJP) Vinod Khanna and one more MP (BJD) from Odisha Tathagata Satpathy who admits smoking pot (cannabis). He even wore cannabis kurta to the Parliament which went viral,”said Mukesh Kumar, Additional Public Prosecutor, Delhi High Court

Ban in Different Countries  
Taking a quick and cursory look at the countries across the globe that took either legalisation or decriminalization of marijuana on a serious and positive note. Way back in 2015, Uruguay became the first country to legalize recreational cannabis with Canada following last year, 2018. On the other hand, Cannabis in South Africa has been decriminalised by the country’s Constitutional Court for personal consumption by adults in private. Whereas on 21 August 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis and other drugs in order to reduce the illicit drug activity. President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a bill to legalize cannabisbased substances for medical purposes on June 19, 2017. The most important part that grabs immediate attention is that the Netherlands where cannabis is illegal, but is decriminalised for personal use. Recreational consumption of the drug is tolerable, hence, it is available in coffee shops. Even in Spain, consumption and cultivation by adults in a private space is legal.
  Peru legalized cannabis oil for medical use in 2017, it is illegal for recreational purposes, and however, its possession is decriminalized by Art. 299 of the Criminal Code.
In Jamaica, in the year 2015, a ban on possession and use of marijuana was relaxed allowing people to carry up to 56 grams of the drug. Residents can even grow up to five plants especially for the use of religious purposes. Cannabis in Argentina is decriminalized for personal use in small amounts and for consumption in private locations, the Supreme Court ruled in 2009. On March 29, 2017, the Argentine senate approved the medical use of CBD cannabis oil. The whole world seems to focus on this side, many countries taking in view the varied benefits of the hemp plant have legalised or decriminalised.
Though, cannabis in Colombia is illegal for public consumption and commercial sale, legal for certain medical uses, and personal cultivation and consumption are decriminalized. Cannabis in Israel is allowed for some specified medical usages, though it’s illegal there. On July 19th 2018, the Israeli Knesset finally approved the bill for decriminalization. There are several other nations like Zimbabwe, last year, 2018 on 27 April, became the second African country to legalize marijuana for both medical and scientific purposes. In November 2018, United Kingdom legalised cannabis for medical use, whereas it is strictly banned from recreational uses. Cannabis in Sri Lanka is legally sold through Ayurveda herbal shops, and can be used for medical and scientific purposes if given a license by the Ministry of Health. Thus, it is legal for medical and for recreational purposes it is limited to Ayurveda. For cultivation, the government licence is required
Cannabis in Slovenia is illegal but decriminalized. While medical marijuana is not allowed, the use of certain cannabinoid drugs is permitted. Where on the one hand, cannabis in San Marino is illegal for recreational purposes, but some cannabis-based remedies are legal for medical purposes on the other.
Cannabis in Portugal is decriminalized, as a result of the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal in 2001. Medical use of cannabis was legalized in 2018.
  Taking a fleeting glimpse of the following nations enjoying the freedom of decriminalising cannabis.
Poland, The medical use of cannabis was legalized in 2017. Moldova, it is illegal but decriminalized. Macedonia, it’s legal for medical purposes, but illegal for recreational purposes. Luxembourg, cannabis is illegal for recreational use, but possession of personal amounts is decriminalized and medical use has been legalized. Italy has legalised for medical and industrial uses, although it is strictly regulated, while it is decriminalized for recreational uses.
Greece, it’s illegal for recreational purposes. In 2017, medical use of cannabis was legalized. Germany has legalised for certain limited medical contexts, but illegal for recreational usage. Georgia, it is legal in terms of its possession and consumption due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia on 30 July 2018.
The Czech Republic has legalised for recreational use, but personal possession has been decriminalized since 1 January 2010 and medical cannabis has been legal since 1 April 2013. Cannabis in Croatia is decriminalized for personal use and legalized for limited medical uses. In Chile, Cultivation of medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is decriminalized. Cannabis in Austria is legal for scientific and medical usage, but illegal for recreational usage. Cannabis in Antigua and Barbuda is illegal but decriminalized.
  Back home in India, Uttarakhand is a first state in India where cultivating cannabis is legal for industrial purposes, except those in the Terai and Bhabhar regions. People who wish to cultivate cannabis must seek permission and license.
On 21 February 2017, Gujarat legalized bhang by removing it from the list of “intoxicating drugs” covered by section 23 of the Gujarat Prohibition Act. In 2018, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet gave the green signal for bhang or hemp farming in the state.

“Well, I do not go in favour of legalisation of marijuana in India. There must be some stringent laws that could probably determine its use. For instance, as long as it is used in medicines there is no harm. I am deadly against people consuming it just for kicks. Besides, the government should appoint nodal agencies to monitor the sale of this drug. If it opens to the public and is easily available in the market it may be catastrophic. On the other hand, it could be a healthy move like it can generate revenues when farmed and exported to other countries where it is needed,”stated Ali Mehdi Advocate Delhi High Court


By Syed Wajid

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