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Drug, Tradition or Religion: Marijuana in India

Marijuana cultivation in India has been one of the most ancient activities in its history with extensive routes being developed for massive trade of the substance. The argument over the legalisation of Cannabis has many controversies around it. This issue re-emerged and the UN International Narcotics Control Board felt the need to clarify certain issues in its annual report.

The use of 'drugs' specifically those of the narcotic variety has attracted public attention, which in turn has brought about a variety of restrictions for use of the substances. There is, however, a lot of grey areas in this debate, especially in light of the extent of political and legal actions taken by governments of nation-states. But, the discourse about drugs has lately arrived to a position, which has sought legalization from a considerable portion of the public society.


The 21st Century and Marijuana
Despite the magnitude of this market, and of the quality and quantity of marijuana that is available to the country, India has the potential to lay the foundations for well-structured marijuana production and consumption. Still, the question as to why marijuana should be legalized is still up in the air.
The irony is that, in the 21st century itself, a host of countries have joined up in the legalization of marijuana consumption albeit with different rules and regulations depending upon the given situation. Amsterdam is one of the well-known destinations for marijuana consumption without any legal trouble and has become a tourist destination in regard of it appealing genre for cannabis consumers who rank up to around 125 million in the world.


Why Legalisation is justifiable
One of the foremost reasons for the legalisation of marijuana is the medicinal value that is attached to it which cannot be undermined. Dr Peter Grinspoon, a professor at Harvard Medical School, commented that "The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control. While marijuana isn't strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age. Marijuana is also used to manage nausea and weight loss and can be used to treat glaucoma. A highly promising area of research is its use for PTSD in veterans who are returning from combat zones. Medical marijuana is also reported to help patients suffering from pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease."


Indian Law and Marijuana
It is also important to know why and what is the punishment regarding the consumption, production and commercialization of marijuana and its varied forms. "Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 deals with the offences related not only to the consumption but also cultivation, possession, use, sale/purchase, import/export, transportation and warehousing of cannabis, except for medical or scientific purposes.
• Under section 20, In the case of cultivation, a fine of up to one lakh rupees and rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years might be levied.
• For possession of small quantities (100 grams for charas and hashish, 1000 grams for ganja), a penalty of ten thousand rupees or a jail term of 6 months to 1 year.
• If someone is caught with commercial quantities (1 kg for charas and hashish, 20 kgs of ganja), the court can serve stern imprisonment for up to twenty years and pay a fine of two lakh rupees.
• Courts also at their own discretion can penalize a regular offender for a 30-year imprisonment term. It is also not compulsory to give away a mandatory death sentence for repeated convictions in cases of trafficking large quantities of drugs.
• Section – 25 states that if a person knowingly allows one's premises to be used for committing an offence under NDPS Act, 1985 he will be deemed to the same punishment as under section- 20.
• Section – 28 deals with attempts, abetment and criminal conspiracy with regard to marijuana."
Marijuana is included as a Class 1 drug. Schedule 1 (Class 1) drugs are illegal because they have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns; for example, narcotics such as Heroin, LSD, and cocaine.


Criticism around legalisation

On the other hand, there are a lot of criticisms surrounding the notion of legalising marijuana. "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself". The psychoactive drug is termed as the most abused drug in the world. It is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world as it has the power to alter any mood and affect all the organs in the body. Pot, weed, dope or marijuana, no matter what everybody calls it, but it is one of the harmful drugs to be used. Marijuana contains a mind-altering chemical responsible for most of the intoxication that is caused by its use. For a pot smoker, the use of marijuana is not harmful, but that person can easily become a risk to society. Researches have clearly shown that the use of marijuana can lead to various problems in daily life. It is a proven fact that Marijuana can harm a person's memory and the impact can last for days or weeks after the immediate effects of the drug wear off. The use of Marijuana has both short- and long-term effects on the brain. It blocks the memory formation in our brain which further causes cognitive impairment. It can also quicken age-related brain cell loss. The long-term cause leads to depressive symptoms in subjects with a special serotine gene responsible for an increased risk of depression. It is also the cause of acute psychosis which includes hallucinations, delusions or even the loss of the sense of personal identity leading to intense anxiety.


The way forward
The process of legalisation is still in its early stages with some states having already legalised consumption for medicinal purposes of marijuana. "Our revenue must be strong. Moreover, Cannabis grows in the wild abundantly in Manipur and this can be used for extraction of hemp oil which is known for its medicinal property", N Biren Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur, said. He divulged that legalisation of Cannabis is one of the ideas being considered to help boost the revenue generation of the state. Pointing out that other states like Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand have already legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes, the Chief Minister appealed to the people to extend their co-operation. Even Madhya Pradesh is also inclined towards legalising the growth of marijuana for healthcare uses. With acceptance towards the medicinal properties of cannabis growing amongst lawmakers and the growing state, support is only a positive sign for the movement.
Even though marijuana is prohibited, one can't seem to make it go away. But it can be made safer.


Krishangi Sinha

Krishangi Sinha

Journalism Graduate, Aspires to be a media and law professional


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