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This article is written by Aradhana Singh and Nippani Harshita. The article has been edited by Ruchika Mohapatra (Associate, LawSikho).

Introduction

The usage of drugs has often been multi-dimensionally correlated with offences like organized crimes and human trafficking and health hazards like that of HIV. It is a bone of contention at both the international and national levels because of its effects on the life and socio-economic growth of the country. There is a huge resurgence of cannabis and opium in the past years, naming it the “drug-tourism”. The ongoing controversy on whether Marijuana should be legalized has been a hot debate for over a decade. The market analysis depicts that Marijuana has woven its fabrics in the advancement of sciences, medicines and pharmaceuticals.

Keeping in mind the economic background of India, it is termed as a highly productive crop and can also improve the employment status of the marginalized section of our society. The deemed ‘crop’ like any other commercialized crop grown has fiscal as well as health benefits. 

From the technical and economic standpoint, the benefits of Marijuana have been undermined because of its interpretation from a social context making it unethical in the eyes of individuals.

Definitions

Let us look at the meanings defined under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (hereinafter the Act).-

“Section 2(iii) of the Act defines cannabis(hemp) as – 

(a) 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; 

(b) 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 

(c) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink, prepared therefrom;

[(viiia) “essential narcotic drug” means a narcotic drug notified by the Central Government for medical and scientific use;]

(xii) “medicinal cannabis”, that is, medicinal hemp, means any extract or tincture of cannabis (hemp);

(xiv) “narcotic drug” means coca leaf, cannabis (hemp), opium, poppy straw and includes all manufactured drugs;

(xv) “opium” means— (a) the coagulated juice of the opium poppy; and (b) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of the coagulated juice of the opium poppy, but does not include any preparation containing not more than 0.2 per cent. of morphine;

(xxiii) “Psychotropic substance” means any substance, natural or synthetic, or any natural material or any salt or preparation of such substance or material included in the list of psychotropic substances specified in the Schedule;

[(xxviiia) “use”, in relation to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, means any kind of use except personal consumption;]”

Scientific usage of Marijuana has always been cited on many occasions but India is still not ready to accept it. A recent study by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy Punjab  has found that Section 64A of the Act has been underutilized and the user’s land up in jail without being provided with the necessary treatment. According to the Punjab State Legislations, the Rules of Mental Healthcare Act 2017, mandates the usage of Opioid Substances Therapy and so does Sikkim. Looking at the urgent need in medical care, we must decriminalize substance consumption.

Prevailing legal structure

History of Legislation

The first enactment came in 1857 when the need was recognized by the British and the Law of Opium Act of 1857 was established, followed by another legislation with the same name in 1878. These laws did not equip themselves to tackle drug use comprehensively. The legislation did not even provide for the punishment which could stop the habitual offenders. 

India and many other countries have endorsed and ratified the following three international conventions on drug-related matters

  1. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 
  2. Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, and
  3. The UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

NDPS banned the production and sale of Marijuana but did not criminalize the use of leaves and seeds of Marijuana. As per some rules in the nation, the sale, purchase, possession and use of Marijuana, as well as bhang, is illegal in the state. Under Section 66(1)(b) of the Bombay Prohibition Act, the manufacturing, possession and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances have been criminalized in Maharashtra. On February 21, 2017, bhang was legalized in Gujarat from the list of “intoxicating drugs”. India’s approach toward narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is enshrined in the Constitution of India, which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. 

Punishment for marijuana possession in India and other countries

As of 4th August, 2020 over 25 countries in the globe have decriminalized drugs which include countries like Portugal, Netherland, Germany and Czech Republic. There is a stark decrease in death in the said countries. India, France, Turkey usually account for 83% of the total global Morphine rich opiate raw material in 2017.

While comparing the other nations we found out from different sources that over the decades the States have already recognized the medicinal benefits of Marijuana. Take for example Canada in 2001 they already made medicinal cannabis legal and in 2018 recreational cannabis was made legal but only the age of 18 and above could avail them.

Mexico, in 2017, legalized medical Marijuana, Chile in 2014 agreed to  the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes and in 2015 it found its place in the medical stores. In Italy, possession of Marijuana is illegal but if it is for medical purposes you might just get away from the legal clutches. 

Sri Lanka long back approved the use of cannabis for its traditional ayurvedic medicine preparation. In Africa, we see Rwanda as the sole legalized nation which provides the same but with a reference of a legalized practitioner. 

Starting with the United States of America, there is no tax interruption for cannabis. The businessman involved must take the full imposition given by the states. The tax can be as high as 70% which is just like a penalty. Netherland has no action if legally referred. Russia penalizes even personal use and they refer to administrative detention and fine. South Africa decriminalized it long ago.

Argentina deals with confiscation of drugs, fine and they refer to the educational course for recourse. Chile has no punishment for personal use but penalizes for public supply and consumption. 

The Czech Republic only has confiscation of drugs and imposition of fines. Germany has no sanction for possession by a legal threshold. Italy gives warnings, fines and then confiscation with referral to treatment but only if it is for the social supply of cannabis. Mexico after the third infarction refers to the voluntary treatment and if found legal no action is taken. 

According to a worldwide survey vis-à-vis the punishments regarding possession and cultivation of cannabis. We are shedding light on the fact that the misconception of the health benefits of cannabis has been imposed by many countries. India became a party to the same based on the fact cannabis created a state of “insanity, criminality and death”. We shall discuss the impositions imposed by the Nations one by one. Coming back to our own country India, we just use Marijuana for our traditional preparation, mostly at the time of various festivals like Holi and Shivratri. 

In India, possession of banned drugs (weed or Marijuana) is an offence under Section 20 of the Act. Indian hemp was criminalized for its production, transport, usage, consumption, import and export, manufacturing, cultivation etc., the only way to use it is for scientific purposes only and that is also vaguely defined under it. 

Repeated offences under the same are treated exactly like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act of 1987. It attracts Section 31A amounting to the death penalty but after 2014 this became optional. Bail is not provided unless security and surety are provided. 

An elaborate discussion on the Act leads to focusing on a few points. The law states that only Low Tetrahydrocannabinol (hereinafter THC) content development drugs can be allowed. Section 20(b)(i) and (ii) the Act provides for the punishment of the contravention of such drugs with 10 years of imprisonment and Rs 1 Lakh fine or both depending upon the possession. The small quantity of the same carries  6 months jail which can extend up to 10 years with a fine. Section 27 of the  Act later punishes a person with consumption of the drug either with Rs 10,000 and imprisonment of 6 months or both. 

In a leading case, the Chandigarh High Court claimed that, according to the Act, usage of bhang is not “cannabis (hemp)” under the Statute, but it is a “cannabis plant.” Thus, it is not unlawful to eat cannabis leaves under the rule.

This makes us certain that the Indian system lacks to accept the difference between industrial and medical usage of hemp. India has always been using Indian hemp traditionally.

Burden on the system 

The criminalization of drug use contradicts the life dignity enshrined under Article 20 of the Indian Constitution. It enroots the formation of illegal markets and illicit substance trading. Such sales lead to adulteration and compromise in quality which leads to deterioration of health. Therefore, an amalgamation of other substances leads to unprecedented addiction. 

The number of arrests for consumption and possession of substance 7 as described in the Act increase per year. In 2018, 81,778 persons were arrested for the same. 59% of those were found in possession of substances for personal use. The judicial system is always under pressure of several pending cases and 99% of cases are heard for drugs and their related crimes.

The cases concerning the possession and consumption of drugs and their illegitimate usage have always been taken into consideration. Take for example- in the  Mohanlal case, the court looked into the word ‘possession’. Firstly, it includes all such arrangements involving physical control or corpus, and second, it includes the element of animus, i.e., the mental intention which has reference to the exercise of the said control. 

The number of arrests was more in the lower-income group for cannabis possession. The criminalization of cannabis does not take into consideration the negative bits of a criminal record. Despite the presence of other harmful substances, cannabis remains the centre of attraction.

Decriminalization and  its benefits on the Indian economy 

Constructive criticism

According to the medical sciences, the demerits of cannabinoids are overestimated and every country should respond to not only cannabis products but other harmful substances through progressive public health policies. In a bird’s eye view, cannabis remains the centre of the attraction despite the presence of other harmful substances such as. 

One can educate the general public by implementing certain measures such as:

  1. Initiating anti-drug abuse campaigns,
  2. Ted-talks,
  3. Creating awareness campaigns amongst the youth through  seminars and skits,
  4. Organizing a rehabilitation program for the victims,
  5. Reducing the intake of active ingredients,
  6. Imposing stricter taxes to restrict trade. 

Effects on Indian economy

Elimination of illegal trade and associated crimes 

The legalization of Marijuana will kill the black market across the country by setting up rules and regulations. The government will be given an upper hand to set up an efficient supply-chain management system to ensure that the crimes are out of the circuit.

Taxes on Marijuana will increase the government’s revenue

By legalizing and taxing Marijuana, the government will stand to earn huge amounts of revenue. The regulation will not only make the businessmen responsible but also reduce the amount of abuse as seen in the United States where the tax is 70% without subsidiaries allowed to them. 

It will create job opportunities

The unemployment rate can be reduced by widening employment opportunities through its decriminalization.

Better state of living for the locals 

The recent development project on CBD found in cannabis in Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plant in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow and Uttrakhand’s Pantnagar have started the research on cannabinoids and their usage with the help of the central Government. In states like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow, Marijuana is the only source of income for many locals. However, being a banned substance, the farmers are forced to sell it at a very cheap price to the drug dealers and they face additional pressure from the police as well, who are paid to destroy the cannabis plantations.

Supply of good quality Marijuana

Legalization will improve the quality of drugs sold to the users because the government will regulate the consumption, production and sale of the drug.

Extension in medicinal sciences and pharmaceuticals

Use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes

How can we treat a world where people are suffering from debilitating health conditions, neurological diseases, cancer, other chronic disorders? CBD provides a grassroots solution and helps with contemporary treatments with scientific beliefs. Most books about ‘Marijuana and Medicine’ attempt to endorse the views of advocates and opponents. The authors are suggesting the same. 

Medicinal benefits

Pain management

The cannabinoids in Marijuana may reduce pain by altering pain perception pathways in the brain. This may be helpful to treat conditions that cause chronic pain, such as:

  • Arthritis,
  • Fibromyalgia,
  • Endometriosis,
  • Migraine.

It may also minimize cancer treatment side effects, like loss of appetite. In some instances, medical Marijuana is reported to help replace the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, which can have negative side effects.

Reduced inflammation

CBD in Marijuana is thought to help reduce inflammation. Decreasing inflammation in the body can also improve overall health.  

In theory, this may benefit inflammatory conditions, such as:

  • Crohn’s disease,
  • Irritable bowel syndrome,
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

Neurological and mental disorders

Due to its effects on the limbic system, doctors sometimes prescribe Marijuana to treat the following neurological and mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety,
  • Epilepsy,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
  • Tourette syndrome.

Sleep management

The relaxing effects of Marijuana may help improve sleep disorders, such as insomnia. And improved sleep may also occur when pain is reduced from Marijuana usage. 

Cancer treatment

Clinical studies indicate that Marijuana helps treat several cancerous symptoms simultaneously. 

These include:

  • Quelling nausea,
  • Suppressing vomiting,
  • Increase in appetite,
  • Relieving pain,
  • Soothing anxiety.

Experimental pieces of evidence suggest that Marijuana can help cure these above-stated symptoms. THC, a substance found in cannabinoids, has been used to treat cancer patients for  decades. Therefore, one can reduce the content of THC and increase the CBD in the medicines prescribed

Drug trafficking

Illegal channelization of drug trafficking comprises production, sale, consumption and possession which are subjected to drug prohibition laws. The members of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime have been monitoring and analysing the drug market continuously to understand the sphere of dynamics.

Existing scenario

Causes of drug abuse in India 

Geographical location

A major factor making India vulnerable to drug trafficking and consequent drug abuse is its geographical location. It lies close to the major opium-producing regions of South West and South East Asia is known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’, respectively. It makes India vulnerable to transit, trafficking and consumption of Opium derivatives in various forms along the known trafficking routes.  

Easy availability 

Cheap and easy availability due to cross-border smuggling of drugs is a major reason for increasing drug abuse in India.  

Risk factors contributing to drug abuse

Unstable home environment; poor relationship with family members behavioural problems combined with poor parenting, depression, stress, peer pressure: Use and availability of drugs from peers.

Role of media

The glorification of drug abuse in media such as in series and movies- Popular media romanticizing drug use/abuse largely influences adolescents.

Strategies to combat drug trafficking

Implementation of the following strategies can help curb the problem to a major extent ensuring the supply of medicinal Marijuana through government-approved channels:

  1. Tie-ups with government-approved hospitals, pharma and trauma centres for usage and supply of government-approved medicinal drugs. 
  2. Setting up government-approved medicinal drugs growing grounds. 
  3. Creating an efficient SCM system to ensure that drug dealers and drug addicts are kept out of the circle (Verification and stock taking at every location).
  4. Increasing the CBD ratio concerning THC ratio.
  5. Production of more CBD Oil.
  6. The sale of CBD as an addiction should not be permissible. 
  7. Identifying and shutting down illegal online pharma.
  8. Obtain licenses for time-bound production (i.e., to supply more only after receiving a written memo from the entities we work with).
  9. Introducing a new national seal (approved by medicinal dept of Indian govt) for prescriptions stating the use of any drugs mentioned in the NDPS Act.
  10. Computer-generated OTP by govt at the time of delivery and immediate entries in the log for stocktaking. 

Global market system

As per the report, published by Grand View Research, INC. The global legal Marijuana market size is expected to hit a mark of USD 73.6 billion by 2027. During this period, the CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) is expected to surge up to 18.1%. Based on the report published, it has been concluded that the medicinal Marijuana sector will be dominating the marketplace by holding a chief revenue share.

Global legal marijuana market

Figure 1:  Market Integrated Share.

What makes them run in the race of evolution drivers?

It has been found that there is an increase in the application of Marijuana for a myriad of medical conditions and symptoms with a growing demand for medical marijuana legalization in several countries. There is a stark rise in the number of R&D and clinical trial activities.
A lot of countries across the globe are legalizing the use of Marijuana. It is believed that legalization could help restrain illegal substance use thereby helping people to reap its medicinal benefits. Many countries have legalized the usage of cannabis for medicinal purposes such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece.

The Global Cannabis Market is an extremely fragmented market with local and regional players occupying a major share in the market. In the cannabis market, companies are very active and are constantly involved in acquiring shares and developing new products to attract a larger portion of consumers toward their products. For instance, in January 2019, Canopy Growth Expanded Beverage Portfolio with the launch of the first CBD-Infused Beverage Line Quatre. 

The high-income potential of this crop is driven by its genomic and agronomic factors. The cannabis market will experience a positive curve as many countries are moving towards the path of complete or partial recognition of its convention.

Conclusion

A study of innumerable international laws and related research papers suggest that the decriminalization of Cannabis would be beneficial for India. One needs to exterminate the fear of labelling Marijuana as ‘the grass-way to harder drugs”. 

It was suggested by some medical practitioners that advising of opioid-related medicines make the infant and teenager more addictive to them because the Emergency Rooms in hospitals prescribe for the smallest of the accident like that of a fracture. The medical board must look into the same before suggesting that medical Marijuana may make people addicted to it. 

Readings of ancient manuscripts show that Marijuana has been a part of Indian culture for over five millennia, so why is the general public still in a state of denial? As part of their research, the authors conducted an independent survey wherein they collected data from samples and asked people their view on legalizing Marijuana. 

The data revealed the following – 

                  Figure 2: Pie Chart of the independent survey taken.

This graph suggests the results of a survey the authors conducted in which people over the age of 18 were asked about their opinion on the legalization of Marijuana. 

From the pie chart it is clear that the majority of the participants of the considered age (20-50 years of age) i.e., 55.2% prefer the legal use of Marijuana.

The validation of marijuana can facilitate the supervision of drug wars and other unsupervised activities using substances as enshrined in the Act by setting up government-approved channels for its circulation and usage. Regulations made in the end will make responding to the people who utilize it for their legal procedure, this would not endorse but it will reduce the threat of abuse. 

In conclusion, a resolution to use Marijuana for medical purposes is greatly manifested and are well known but undermined heavily, it is clear that the many participants that see Marijuana as a strong lead in the future of medicine, thus making the author’s point clear that cannabis is the gateway to the western medicine. 

References

  1. www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/12/01/2137727/0/en/Legal-Marijuana-Market-Growth-is-Expanding-over-17-8-by-2027.html
  2. theprint.in/opinion/harmful-effects-of-Marijuana-use-what-criminalisation-does/486254/
  3. www.unodc.org/unodc/en/drug-trafficking/index.html
  4. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224385/  
  5. www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/Marijuana-and-cancer.html
  6. Legalization of Marijuana: India v. World – iPleaders 
  7. www.timesnownews.com/india/article/know-the-laws-related-to-Marijuana-in-india-is-it-time-to-open-debate-on-legalisation-of-weed/660344
  8. www.businessworld.in/article/Why-Cannabis-Should-Be-Legalised-In-India/13-01-2019-166025/
  9. Case for Decriminalising Cannabis Use in India (vidhilegalpolicy.in)
  10. 27580_2011_Judgement_28-Mar-2018.pdf (sci.gov.in)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Such an important aspect has been touched upon through this article!! Amazing efforts!! Especially the strategies to combat trafficking!!
    Thank you so much for such an informational article.

  2. Very well worded and well written article. I was not aware of so many medicinal benefits of marijuana and got an understanding of how legalizing it by taking proper measures to combat abuse will prove beneficial to economy.

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