Marijuana, a drug of considerable conflict in India, is also known to be
highly circulated within the country, despite the laws in the country having
declared its dealing, usage, trading and consumption as illegal.
A herb, or a
drug, whatever one may prefer to refer to it as (there are audiences divided
over this throughout the world - but it really is only a matter of perspective),
has various other names as well, and these names are all well known around the
world - be it weed, pot, ganjha, and a massive number of other slangs, and even
Mary Jane (if you prefer the classic touch for the name). It looks more like a
herb, and is basically a greenish-grey mixture of dried flowers. These dried
flowers are of the plant Cannabis Sativa.
Several legislations throughout the world had been drafted such so as to make
the consumption, trade, and sale and purchase of marijuana in their respective
jurisdictions as illegal. However, the scenario has changed in these country,
and an increasingly aware society is now beginning to rebel against the
established norms and is striving their best to make the use of marijuana in
their countries legal.
Well, who wouldn't? There are several countries where
exists simultaneously law that allows the consumption of marijuana for
recreational purposes. Several examples exist. And what's worth pondering right
now is not where marijuana is legal, or is how the battle around the world for
the legalization of marijuana is faring.
Rather, the debate worthy aspect of
this conflict is where does India stand in amidst these conflicting opinions
over the legalization of Marijuana?
This legal essay is meant to address this issue for the Indian scenario. The
essay shall be divided threefold - beginning from the history of the concerned
substance, let us call it, due to lack of any other unbiased term for the same,
proceeding to the current situation of marijuana in India, legal and behind the
scenes, and ending the essay with the relevant conclusions for the debate.
History Of Marijuana in India:
The source of the substance that is popularly known as marijuana, is the
plant Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis itself is also known as Marijuana, among
several other names. Cannabis Sativa has been put to various uses by the people
who wish to, and the most popular use among the people is by consuming the dried
flowers and the subtending leaves of the plant, and the stems of the
female Cannabis plant. Although the present laws in India have declared the
possession, consumption and sale and purchasing of marijuana as a punishable
offence, it was not always so.
Cannabis plant has been being used in India since ages, and its usage can be
dated back to the as old as 2000 BCE. The Ancient Vedas in India enumerate and
mention the use of various parts of the plant for several purposes, and what is
notable that not all of them are medicinal. Bhang, which is still very popular
among the general populace, can be found mentioned in several Indian texts that
date back to almost 1000 BCE.
Unsurprisingly, this fact is also debated among
the scholars for the same, which is quite similar to everything that is said or
stated in this debate. Atharvaveda (c. 1500 - 1000 BCE), as has been interpreted
by some scholars has been found to mention bhang as one of the five sacred
plants that are known to cure anxiety.
Cannabis Sativa is also known by several scholars as the plant to have been used
to prepare soma, an intoxicating drink, highly praised in the Rigaveda, (c. 1700
– 1100 BCE) in the Vedic Period.
However, post the ancient period, the colonial era dawned in India, and several
changes were observed, for the Europeans deeply delved into the uses of
Marijuana, and researched extensively over its effects.
The Portuguese Medical
Practitioners came to know about the Indian trade of Marijuana, and when
examined it, they accepted the common usage in India of various parts of the
plant, in particular the Portuguese botanist and doctor, Garcia da Orta
the British Colonists, in their research, were unable to find any particular
harmful long term effect, when the parts of the plant were consumed in moderate
The Indian subcontinent has a wide history of usage of Cannabis, yet the same
was over the time found to be illegal to be consumed. Why?
The answer is pretty simple. A Political agenda, with an economic motive.
In the 1930s, USA referred to hemp as a ‘billion dollar plant”, merely because
the number of uses it was being put to use for. There were simply many.
Especially, because it was equally opposite in price – it was inexpensive. The
plant was in a similar situation in almost every country around the world. It
was only plausible that the growing hemp industry would pose great danger to the
liquor, tobacco and timber industries, which were lagging behind now since hemp
had taken the lead.
India had long battled the pressure that the USA had been exerting on it, to
make marijuana in India illegal. This was 1961. Ever since the beginning of
1961, the USA had been widely campaigning for a global law to illegalize all
drugs, be it hard and soft. India resisted this pressure only for so long, since
India had had a long history of the consumption of the parts of the plant, and
thus, the higher-ups were opposed to such a major step.
But, eventually, the
resistance crumpled against the incessant USA pressure, and in 1985, finally to
the satisfaction of the United States of America, the Government under the
leadership of Rajeev Gandhi, illegalized the consumption of Marijuana by
enacting an act, the “Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act” (the NDPS Act), a much debated act in the modern era, since the people at large claim
of the benefits of the plant consumption, since the science too, backs up their
claims to a considerable extent.
There is considerable debate going on amongst the several segments of the
country as to the prolonged ban on the consumption of the plant in India, where
both sides argue vehemently for their stands.
Where at one hand the side which favours the ban quotes the medicinal side effects of the plant, which have been
said to be severe and dangerous to the mental condition, the opposing segment
quotes the potential benefits, and stresses on limited consumption, and not an
affinity for the same. In short, as no further developments have been made on
either side that would signify any progress in their respective arguments, the
debate seems to have arrived at an impasse.
Current Legal Situation:
The current Indian Legal Regime on consumption of the Marijuana is the NDPS
Act. The Definition Clause of the Act defined Marijuana as follows:
2(iii). cannabis (hemp) means:
- charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or
purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated
preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;
- ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant
(excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by
whatever name they may be known or designated; and
- any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above
forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom;
The Production i.e. growing of Cannabis is illegal under the Act, yet the
harvesting the leaves of the cannabis plant that have grown in the wild, has not
been found to be covered in the act.
The 1961 Treaty was the first ever attempt
to make Marijuana illegal in the world.
It was the first ever international
Treaty that had put together Cannabis (or Marijuana) with hard drugs, meanwhile
simultaneously imposing a blanket ban on its production, except for medicinal
and research purposes. This treaty was severely opposed to by India and other
cannabis and opium manufacturing countries, but were overwhelmed before the
pressure that the USA was exerting.
The loopholes that were found earlier in the
Treaty of 1961, were once again replicated in the NDPS Act, and the leaves
and seeds of the cannabis plant were left out from the definition of the plant
cannabis for the purpose of the NDPS Act, and the same was affirmed by the
Judiciary as well. In addition to the definition, there are also several
punishments prescribed under the NDPS Act, which are a fine of Rs. 10,000 or
imprisonment of 6 months.
While USA exerted pressure on all the countries around the world in 1961 to
impose a blanket ban on all the drugs around the world being produced, be it
hard or soft, and forced India to ban the Marijuana production in the country,
it was not before long when the USA turned coat.
2 States in the United States,
Washington and Colorado, passed a referendum, and approved the use of marijuana
for recreational purposes. Ironical, eh? This adoption of referendum by two
states of the Country that pressurized the world to ban the drug itself, it may
or may not be worth the debate, but it sure is a laugh in the face of India.
Banning the production of the hemp plant, and associated products, has not had
any benefit whatsoever for India. The hemp industry in the USA is wide ranging,
and amounts to $44 Billion, by 2020, as estimated this year. Nowhere in
India's statistics is such a number envisioned. Forbes estimated the Hemp
industry in USA to provide more jobs than their any of the manufacturing
On the contrary, banning the growth, and consumption of the plant in India has
only caused negative effects on the youth, and other segments of the society as
well. In the year 2000, in India, substance abuse, in particular of Cannabis,
has been graded at about 3.2 per cent. India has the least priced cannabis
available in the world, at about $0.10. India, over the years since it has
been banned for consumption, unless for medicinal purposes, has, on the
contrary, seen a tremendous rise in the youth who consume the plant
Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, seems wise in this context. Canada
was the one of the few countries, who have in the recent years, completely
legalized the use of marijuana in their countries.
Mr. Trudeau, when asked why for such a step, said that the ages old laws
illegalizing cannabis in the country have so far been ineffective, and that
criminals have been making easy money off the kids in the country who have been
trying to consume the plant. Thus to monitor those transactions, and to
channelize the energy effectively, the step has been a bold one, although not
one that has met with universal praise.
But indeed, the path on which the Prime Minister has been thinking is indeed
praiseworthy. Notable is the fact that Canada has not legalized it entirely,
while still, possessing more than 30 grams of the plant is punishable. The
stress is on controlled consumption, and not out of control addiction.
Several benefits are to be found off consuming the plant and its other products,
when done so in a controlled and moderate amount. The states where Marijuana has
been legalized have been noted to be consuming less amounts of painkillers, and
also tend to have a significantly higher score in the happiness index. Besides,
consumption of marijuana has also signified a considerable decrement in the
consumption of alcohol and tobacco, by as much as 15 per cent. Also,
marijuana is scientifically proven to be 114 times less harmful than alcohol and
The experts in the science of this plant have not denied, nor accepted its
benefits. As mentioned, the debate is at an impasse. However, the trends
strongly suggest that there is more to be gained by legalizing it, rather than
it remained illegal. Several countries have already taken the initiative.
Besides, the illegal trade is flourishing nonetheless, and it is not as if the
government and the law authorities are not aware of the same. Rather than
blindsiding the same, it is appropriate that apt steps be undertaken, and the
consumption should be legalized, so that the industry may flourish and develop
in a manner beneficial for the country's economy as well.
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