Author: Aryan Chaudhary New Law College, BVDU, Pune Editor: Priyal Sepaha Symbiosis Law School, Pune
Marijuana is the most frequently used drug in the world (after alcohol) with more than 158.8 million users globally consuming it every year in one form or another.
Marijuana (cannabis) is a physio-pharmaceutical drug. It comes from the cannabis plant that can be used for medical and recreational purposes. The main mind-altering element of cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The highest concentrations of THC are found in the dried flowers, or buds.
For a botanist, marijuana traces its origin from a plant known as Cannabis Sativa. For a chemist, marijuana is a type of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) psychoactive drug. Marijuana is contraband to a drug officer. For public policy graduates, marijuana has been a subject for debate; for about the last 50 years.
Marijuana is consumed in several ways. It is often rolled up in a paper to make a cigarette commonly known as a ‘Joint’ or can be used in a pipe, or a bong. It can be smoked as a ‘blunt’, which is a hollow cigar filled with marijuana instead of tobacco. Many users often blend in or use marijuana to brew tea. Marijuana is also consumed in the form of edibles by extracting THC from the buds and infusing it with food products. Vaporisers are also another accessible mode of cannabis usage for people who do not want to inhale smoke.
REGULATIONS FOR MARIJUANA BAN IN INDIA
Up until the 1980s, marijuana was not considered an illegal substance and was sold in government shops. But the ban on cannabis products has not been an effective one and doesn’t seem to stop Indians from smoking.
According to 2018, Cannabis Price Index by ABCD New Delhi was placed at the third position in highest cannabis consumptions in the world, while Mumbai was placed at sixth place.
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, 1894
Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report was completed in 1894, and It was an Indo-British study of cannabis usage in India. By 2 March 1893, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom became concerned with the usage of hemp in Bengal province, India. A seven-member commission was organised by the Government of India to carry out proper research in the matter. On 3 July 1893, Lord Kimberley suggested increasing the scope of this commission to include all of India.
The report provided by the commission was 3,281 pages long, with the testimony of nearly 1,200 doctors, fakirs, coolies, yogis, heads of lunatic asylums, bhang peasants, tax-gatherers, smugglers, hemp dealers, army officers and many more. A proper study of the report discloses that the commission’s visit to asylum helped to sabotage the then belief that the consumptions of bhang can cause insanity or lunacy.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report clearly stated that occasional and moderated use of the Hemp drugs is not harmful to both physical and mental stability of a person.
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was an international treaty among 186 parties, to forbid production and supply specific drugs and drugs of similar nature, except for medicinal purposes and research but only with a proper license. Drugs under this convention were categorised under four schedules. Schedule IV drugs are most restrictive, and Schedule I, schedule II, and Schedule III comes next respectively, which makes Schedule III drugs least restrictive. Cannabis was defined as a hard drug under this convention.
India agreed to curb Indian hemp exports, on condition that the word ‘cannabis’ must be adequately defined to exclude bhang from it. ‘Bhang’ is also consumed in India till date during many Indian festivals.
Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act or commonly known as NDPS Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 23 August 1985 and later on passed 14 November 1985, with the assent of the then President Giani Zail Singh.
Use of Bhang, Hemp, Cannabis, Marijuana, whatever we may call it, has been a part of India and its culture for a very long time. Using cannabis products in India has been known for almost 2000 BC, and is mentioned in Atharvaveda. The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission also showed that moderated or occasional use of hemp does not affect mental state or cause any moral injury as well. And on the other hand, if a person smokes regularly, it may cause injury to him/her, but the exact point of injury cannot be determined.
The United States began a worldwide war on drugs, which resulted in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. India was able to fight United States pressure for many years, but in 1980, U.S.A. increased the pressure and so in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi government ceded to the pressure and passed the NDPS Act.
NDPS act included production, selling, distribution, possession and/or consuming of the cannabis products explained in Section 2 for the Act as illegal and are punishable offences under this Act.
In Arjun Singh vs the State of Haryana, the Chandigarh High Court ruled that ganja is not cannabis but under the statute is a cannabis plant and so, it is not unlawful to eat cannabis leaves under the rule.
PUNISHMENT OF MARIJUANA POSSESSION
The Punishment for Marijuana possession has many different variables in India. Like, if a person is caught with drugs or is believed to be a drug user, he/she may be exempted from the charges if they willingly undergo de-addiction therapy. Section 20 of the NDPS act covers charges not only for consumption but for production, distribution, sale/purchase, possession, etc.
Furthermore, Section 20 of Narcotics Drugs and psychotropic substances Act,1985 states that:
For possession of small quantities of cannabis (100 grams of hashish or charas and 1000 grams of ganja), imprisonment which may extend to one year, or fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or both.
For possession of commercial quantity, imprisonment for a term which may be extended to twenty years and shall not be less than ten years, and with fine up to one lakh rupees, which might be extended to two lakh rupees, or both.
For producing or cultivating, strict imprisonment upto ten years and fine upto one lakh rupees may be imposed, or both.
Section 25 of NDPS Act, 1985 states Punishment for allowing premises, etc. to be used for commission of an offence, according to which if a person knowingly permits someone for commission of offence under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, he/she will be considered guilty and charged under Section 20 of the Act.
Marijuana is considered a harmful substance, and there are many myths about it. Governments of many countries have legalised marijuana, that may be for medicinal purposes, recreational purposes, or just for controlled consumption. In India, cannabis is still produced as bhang, which is very popular in many cultures of India. As compared to alcohol, marijuana is less harmful, and according to many studies conducted in various parts of the world, marijuana has not been linked to any particular disease, if consumed occasionally.
I believe marijuana should be legalised in India due to the following reasons:
Like alcohol, marijuana can also be used to generate revenue. India has a large population of cannabis users, which might help in generating revenue in the form of taxes.
Legalisation of marijuana can prevent illegal trafficking of such products and might indirectly help in curbing crime rate.
Many people in Himachal Pradesh or other parts of India which grow marijuana as their only source of income, will be able to sell their yield to the government and not to drug traffickers who exploit them. Such people are at constant threat from drug traffickers as well as from authorities, who are paid to destroy their products.
Increase in marijuana consumption might also help people to shift from alcohol to marijuana products, which can help them to overcome their alcohol addiction.
A proper system must be put in use, like providing a license to the distributor of marijuana products, as it is for liquor shops. People must be allowed to keep a certain amount of marijuana with them legally. Or, the government can restrict the age limit for consumption of such drugs; for example, people above the age of 25 years can legally consume marijuana products.