This article is written by Siddhi Shah, a law student at KES’ Shri. Jayantilal H. Patel Law College and Kishita Gupta, a Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, graduate. The present article talks about weed and will discuss the history of weed from a legal perspective. The authors have also briefly discussed the statutes implementing the regulation of weed in different countries and the difference between decriminalisation and legalisation of weed. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

Weed is also popularly known as marijuana or ganja or cannabis. It is a psychoactive drug that is derived from Cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa or hemp is from the Cannabinaceae family. Marijuana can be used in various ways, and even for medicinal purposes. 

The authors, through this article, aim to discuss weed and how it originated. The legal perspective is crucial regarding the consumption of weed and how decriminalisation and legalisation of weed are different. The article would be further enlist the countries that have legalised marijuana and the reasons behind the same. 

What is weed

Weed is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis sativa. The main component of cannabis is THC, that is, delta – 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, which leads to intoxication when consumed by people. The chemical is found in resin produced by leaves and buds, primarily of the female cannabis plant. There are over 500 other chemicals in the plant, including over 100 compounds that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids. In addition to these types of extracts, there are other types of extracts as well, including: 

  • Hash oil or honey oil, which is in the form of a gooey liquid
  • Wax or budder, which has a soft solid texture like lip balm 
  • Shatter which is hard in texture and amber in colour. 

Cannabis leaves and buds are smoked in pipes and bongs, hand-rolled into joints, or eaten in edible forms (such as cookies, brownies, and gummies) as marijuana, which can be consumed in a variety of ways. In addition to smoking or eating hashish, the plant produces resinous secretions. Industrial hemp is cultivated from cannabis plants, which are used to manufacture textiles. 

Marijuana stimulates brain cells to release the chemical dopamine, which can result in a sensation of euphoria or a ‘high’ depending on quantity, quality, and mode of use. The exhilaration is almost immediately felt after smoking or other forms of inhalation, as per the collective studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and another 2014 Northwestern Medicine study. 

History of weed

Cannabis originated in western China or central Asia. Cannabis was included in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopoeia as far back as 2800 BC for treating a wide variety of health problems. Since the dawn of time, India has been a major market for cannabis, where it is frequently consumed as a beverage. We are all well aware of its affiliation with the Hindu deity Lord Shiva. 

Regulations and penalties for cannabis and its derivatives were established during the Colonial era. In order to tax cannabis and its derivatives, such as bhang, ganja, and charas, the British government passed tax legislation under the pretext of protecting the ‘good health and sanity’ of the ‘natives.’ Cannabis was not made illegal until after the 1961 Convention of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND), at which point the plant and its derivatives were added to Schedule IV of the UNCND.

In 1841, the cannabis plant was introduced to Western medicine by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy after he lived in India. Cannabis has been used therapeutically for many years, including stopping convulsions in children. In 1937, The Marijuana Tax Act in the USA effectively outlawed the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. In 1988, CB1 (cannabinoid) receptors were found by Howlett in the rat brain. In 1993, there was the discovery of CB2 receptors. For example, they have been employed as medicines to treat a wide range of human illnesses and disorders due to their powerful therapeutic effects, which are documented in Indian Ayurveda. 

A global outlook on legalising weed 

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 284 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 smoked cannabis in 2020. Around the world, 70 nations have legalised cannabis in some capacity for medical purposes, with 26 of those nations allowing access to high-THC cannabis for medical patients. 

The following table represents the number of cannabis consumers in millions:

RegionsTotal number of Cannabis consumers (in Millions)
Asia94 
Africa 59
North America50
Europe44
Latin America16
Oceania4
Caribbean1
Total268

Countries which have legalised or decriminalised weed  

In this section, the authors have tried to cover some of the countries that allow people to smoke weed freely.

Canada

In Canada, the manufacture, sale, and possession of cannabis are all subject to stringent legal restrictions due to the Cannabis Act of 2018. 

Adults who are 18 years or older are legally permitted, subject to provincial or territorial limitations, to:

  • Possess up to 30 grams of dried or an equivalent amount in a non-dry form in public; 
  • Possess up to 30 grams of dried or an equivalent amount in a non-dry form in public; 
  • In provinces and territories without a regulated retail system, people can buy cannabis online from federally licenced producers and buy dry or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially licenced store;
  • Only four cannabis plants per dwelling may be grown legally from seed or seedlings for personal use, provided that no organic solvents are used to concentrate the plants’ products.

One gram of dried cannabis is equivalent to:

  • 5 grams of new cannabis; 
  • 15 grams of edible product;
  • 70 grams of liquid product; 
  • 0.25 grams of concentrate, either liquid or solid; or 
  • 1 cannabis plant seed.

Therefore, a person 18 years or older can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis. 

Legal cannabis is:

  • Contaminants are tested for and controlled in the production process.
  • Cannabis is tested for THC and CBD levels, ensuring the quality of the product.
  • A product can be recalled if there is a safety or quality concern by the manufacturer, the licence holder, or Health Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, police received reports of over 48,000 drug offences involving cannabis in 2017. Eighty per cent of these offences involved possession. Even a modest possession charge that results in a criminal record for a cannabis offence can have substantial and lifelong repercussions for the accused. The Act lessens the strain on the courts by permitting the production and possession of legal cannabis by adults. This helps keep Canadians who use cannabis out of the criminal justice system.

The following table discusses the penalties in relation to the various offences committed:

Offences Penalties
Possession exceeding the limitAmounts to tickets for small amountsJail time up to 5 years less a day
In case of illegal distribution or saleSmall amounts- tickets Jail time Up to 14 years
Producing cannabis exceeding the limit for personal cultivationSmall amounts- tickets Jail time up to 14 years 
Producing with organic solventsJail time up to 14 years 
Travelling with cannabis outside the borders of Canada Jail time up to 14 years 
Giving or selling cannabis to a person below 18 years of ageJail time up to 14 years 
Committing a cannabis-related crime with using youth as a baitJail time up to 14 years

To that aim, Canadian law shall continue to concentrate on its four top policy concerns:

  • Preventing children from having access to cannabis.
  • Guarding the public’s health.
  • Promoting road, workplace, and public space safety.
  • Limiting the cannabis black market.

Czech Republic (Czechia)

There are various misconceptions about the weed-related law of the Czech Republic. It is important to understand that while the law in the Czech Republic legalises weed, it is only partial and is limited to medical and industrial use, leaving recreational use to be criminal. The Czech Criminal Code (Act No. 40/2009) strictly forbids the production and another handling of narcotic and psychotropic substances and poisons without a licence (Section 283), the possession of narcotic and psychotropic substances and poisons (Section 284), the unlicensed cultivation of plants containing narcotic and psychotropic substances and poisons (Section 286), the spread of drug addiction (Section 287), and the production and another handling of substances with hormonal effects (Section 288).

It is legal to grow cannabis for medical purposes if you have both a permit to dispose of addictive substances and cannabis-related goods and a licence to cultivate cannabis plants. The State Institute for Drug Control can extend the licence, which it issues for a maximum of five years. But remember that the request for prolongation must be submitted by the licence holder 6 months before expiration at the latest. The Ministry of Health issues the permit, which can be extended similarly to a licence for a maximum of five years for which the request for prolongation must be submitted 6 weeks before the expiration of the permission.

Cannabis with a THC content of no more than 1% may be used for commercial, technical, and recreational activities, including sales. Industrial cannabis must be grown on more than 100 m2 of land, and this must be reported to the appropriate customs department. An administrative fine of up to CZK 1,000,000 may be imposed for violating the law’s requirement to inform when industrial cannabis is being grown on more than 100 m2 (approx. EUR 40,800).

In the Czech Republic, the laws governing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) in various products are not uniform, and this field is now undergoing rapid change.

As per the 2022 European Drug Report, the prevalence of high-risk methamphetamine use ranges from 0.60 per 1,000 people (or 363 high-risk users) in Cyprus to 4.84 per 1,000 people (or 33,100 high-risk users) in Czechia. Whereas, in the year 2020, Czechia recorded 29.9% of cannabis users (lifetime adults between 15 – 64 years), 22.9% of cannabis users (young adults from 15 – 34 years of age) and 28% of cannabis users ranging from the school population from 15 – 16 years of age. 

The distinction between cannabis and other narcotic and psychotropic substances was a brand-new significant addition to the Czech legal system brought about by the new Czech Criminal Code, which entered into force in January 2010. Lower sanctions were therefore established for marijuana-related offences. Cannabis distribution and cultivation are still crimes that carry prison sentences of one to eight years (depending on the quantity).

The Act on Addictive Substances, which governs the use of cannabis, underwent a major amendment on January 1, 2022. The major amendment is the increase in the maximum THC content allowed for industrial cannabis plants from 0.3% to 1%. Another significant change is the availability of licences for medical cannabis cultivation to anyone who satisfies the legal conditions. Before this amendment, the licence was awarded by a public tender, which meant that only one organisation could get it, barring other entities from growing medical cannabis.

However, a new implementing regulation is necessary for the amendments to fully take effect. The legal prerequisites for growing medical cannabis should be stated in the regulation.

South Africa 

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others  v. Prince (2018) decision by the Constitutional Court made the recreational use of cannabis legal in 2018. In this case, the Court decided that adults may consume, possess, and grow marijuana in private for their own purposes. Adults may consume, possess, and grow marijuana anywhere that is private and not open to the public for their own personal use, so privacy is not limited to the adult’s residence (house). The amount of cannabis that would be acceptable for personal use was not specified by the Constitutional Court. In the case of Minister of Justice v. Prince, the provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, 1992 (Drugs Act), which had previously made all cannabis growing, possession, and consumption illegal, were found to be unconstitutional. 

It is important to remember that, according to the Drugs Act, it is illegal to consume cannabis recreationally, possess it, or cultivate it if you are not an adult in a private setting. The Drugs Act categorises cannabis as a narcotic that causes undesired dependence. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, violating the Drugs Act can result in a sentence of 12 months to 25 years in jail (with or without a fine).

In August 2020, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was introduced in Parliament. Following the receipt of public comments, the National Assembly is continuing to debate the Bill at this time. The Bill aims to include suitable measures in the pertinent laws to ensure clarity about, among other things, what constitutes “in private” use and the amount that qualifies. Additionally, it places restrictions on the amount of cannabis that one person may own for private use and production, as well as the usage of cannabis in public smoking and sales. The Bill sets a limit of 600g for an individual living alone and 1.2kg for two or more persons residing in the same household. However, the Bill also suggested the erasure of criminal records for those who had been found guilty of insignificant cannabis possession offences under earlier drug control laws. 

The Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965 governs the use of cannabis for medical purposes in South Africa. If they have a prescription, patients can obtain CBD, a kind of medicinal cannabis, from their pharmacies. Additionally, pharmacies, supermarkets, health stores, and convenience stores sell unscheduled CBD products. The patient must obtain a Department of Health (DOH) permit before using THC-based drugs or synthetic CBD. To be used therapeutically, THC can be obtained from a pharmacist with a prescription from a physician.

Criminal penalties are severe for violating the Medicines Act by using cannabis for medical purposes (up to 10 years imprisonment, with or without a fine).

Spain 

There is a range of cannabis laws, but these things hold true all around Spain:

  • Cannabis sales are prohibited in Spain. Trafficking in cannabis can result in criminal charges, jail time, and harsh penalties.
  • To use cannabis for personal use is legal. Make sure you only consume it on private properties, or in the solitude of your own property if you are a traveller.
  • Trafficking in cannabis is prohibited. However, purchasing and selling accessories, seeds, or other hemp goods is permitted.
  • Cannabis can be grown on private land without a permit. The sole limitation is that it cannot be seen by the general public. If you are cultivating cannabis, each household is only allowed to have two plants.

Please note that it is forbidden to use cannabis in public areas. Streets, public transportation, public parks, and even the beach are all smoke-free zones. In the event that you are discovered, you will be forced to pay a large fine, risk going to jail, and have your cannabis bag impounded.

Cannabis production is made unlawful under Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code when it encourages, favours, or facilitates the use of illegal narcotics, and it carries a three- to six-year prison penalty.

Cannabis cannot be grown for research, medicinal, or scientific reasons unless the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) grants permission. Nine entities have received cannabis cultivation permits from the AEMPS for research purposes only. Five additional businesses have also been given permission to cultivate and/or manufacture cannabis and its derivatives for use in research and medicine.

As long as it doesn’t exceed the THC content limits of 0.2% set by the European Union  Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 17, 2013, which establishes the guidelines for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy, industrial cannabis cultivation is legal in Spain.

Colombia

Colombia does not permit the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but it decriminalised personal use and possession of the drug in the year 2012. Cannabis is legal to possess up to 20 grammes of, grow up to 20 plants, and use in public, but it is illegal to buy or sell. Since 2015, the nation has had a medical marijuana programme.

A historic framework governing the production, sale, and export of seeds and other cannabis products was adopted by Colombia in 2016 through Law 1787. With the regulation of cannabis exports and production, it has grown to be one of the biggest nations in the world. 

Iván Duque, the President of Colombia, approved the legal sale and international export of dried cannabis biomass and flowers for medical use in July 2021. Decree 811, which was signed by the Colombian government, freed the nation from the constraints that kept it from dominating, if not conquering, the global cannabis industry. Colombia published new industrial hemp regulations in February 2022, demonstrating its readiness to study and adopt effective legislation. As a result, it has become a role model for the rest of the world when it comes to the flexibility needed to regulate cannabis, a plant that has emerged from the clandestine and entered society.

Uruguay

In Uruguay, Act No. 19.172, creating a nationalised market for the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis and its derivatives, was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2013, making Uruguay the first country to legalise cannabis. The governing rules for the law’s implementation were enacted in May 2014. The Strategy for Life and Coexistence, Mujica’s 15-point strategy to reduce insecurity in the nation, included a formal proposal to legalise marijuana.

Cannabis is legal for Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents who are 18 years of age or older under the country’s drug regulations. Tourists aren’t permitted to purchase cannabis. Only pharmacies under government control sell cannabis. Up to 40 grammes, or 1.4 ounces, may be purchased by an individual each month; following laws reduce this amount to 10 grammes, or 0.35 ounces, each week. Cannabis usage is forbidden in indoor public areas where smoking is prohibited under Uruguayan law. Any kind of promotion or advertising is forbidden in Uruguay.

Three legal options exist for purchasing non-medical marijuana: 

  • Growing up to six plants at home; 
  • Purchasing marijuana from a regulated ‘cannabis club,’ which is allowed to grow up to 99 plants; 
  • Purchasing up to 40 g of marijuana per month at state-approved pharmacies.

Lowering overall pricing and allowing cannabis’ lawful home cultivation has generated major benefits. The decision to legalise marijuana in Uruguay has led to a considerable fall in overall drug trafficking systems. Many people have abandoned illegal consumption in favour of legal consumption. Uruguay’s decision to legalise marijuana could help impoverished people escape unhealthy lifestyles because poverty and drug abuse do correlate in some cases.

To prevent anyone from purchasing more than 480 grams of cannabis per year, those who buy or grow it are fingerprinted and registered. The President’s office, working through the control agency, determines the price per gram of marijuana sold at pharmacies on the legally controlled market. In Uruguay, driving while under the influence of cannabis is prohibited, and there is a cutoff point for driving after using marijuana that is set at a particular blood THC level. Uruguay has also outlawed any form of cannabis product promotion. The Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, as well as a public health campaign, will be supported by marijuana tax income. Non-citizens are not permitted by law to consume marijuana or purchase it in Uruguay. 

Australia 

For the purpose of assisting individuals in receiving treatment and avoiding contact with the legal system, Australia implemented new regulations for personal cannabis use on January 31, 2020. While there are some regulations that have changed, others have not. However, it is important to note that although cannabis has been decriminalised, it is still illegal in Australia.

In Australia, any person aged 18 or above can now do the following under the new regulations:

  1. They can possess up to 150 g of fresh marijuana or 50 g of dried marijuana.
  2. They can produce a maximum of four cannabis plants per household and up to two plants per person.
  3. They can use marijuana inside the house (personal use).

However, the following acts will amount to an offence under Australian laws:

  1. It is an offence to use or to cannabis in public areas.
  2. If you expose a child who is below the age of 18 years to cannabis smoke, then you are guilty of an offence under Australian laws.
  3. It is important to properly store cannabis in a place where it is unreachable to children, otherwise, you will be held guilty as per the law.
  4. Make sure that you do not grow cannabis using hydroponics or artificial cultivation.
  5. Lastly, ensure that you grow plants in your private property and not somewhere easily accessible by the public.

As noted above, cannabis has been decriminalised, but it is still illegal in Australia. Therefore, the following acts are still considered illegal in this nation:

  1. It is illegal to sell, share or give cannabis as a gift to another person.
  2. It is illegal to grow, possess, or use cannabis for people aged under 18.
  3. It is illegal to drive a vehicle in Australia with any cannabis substance in your bodily system, i.e., drug driving is illegal.

The United States of America

The United States of America does not have a federal law that legalises the use of cannabis in the country. However, there is liberty for the states to bring their own laws on the subject. 

The adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in the District of Columbia along with 19 states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 38 states, including Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, have legalised medical marijuana to varying degrees as of September 2022.

Small amounts of marijuana are no longer considered criminal in 27 states along with the District of Columbia. Generally speaking, this means that some modest, personal consumption levels are a civil or local offence rather than a state offence (or are the lowest misdemeanour with no possibility of jail time). Prior to the successful legalising ballot initiative in 2014, the District of Columbia established legislation that was approved by Congress and made it a civil infraction to possess or transmit marijuana weighing less than an ounce without payment.

Following a general tendency to lessen the negative effects of various cannabis crimes, some state initiatives have decreased the criminal penalties for cannabis convictions. At least 16 states’ laws on cannabis punishment have changed in the last ten years.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking (SAFE) Act, which would give state-licensed marijuana businesses access to banking services, was approved by the House on February 4. The Bill was initially presented in 2019 by Colorado Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter. He expressed his certainty that it would pass the Senate this session.

The House of Representatives voted to pass a Bill on April 1, 2022, essentially legalising marijuana at the federal level and ending criminal prosecution of those who cultivate, sell, or possess it.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, or CAOA, is currently being debated in the Senate. If passed, it would lift the federal prohibition on cannabis and grant state-authorized cannabis businesses access to financial services like bank accounts, business loans, and credit card transactions.

President Biden signed a presidential proclamation on October 6, 2022, which absolves individuals of their federal marijuana possession charges. The proclamation only applies to convictions under federal law, including violations under the D.C. Code. It does not apply to convictions under state or local law.

Despite the president’s directive, the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to list cannabis as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 because it has “a high potential for abuse and no widely accepted medicinal value.”

Portugal

Talking about cannabis laws in Portugal would be impossible without mentioning the law n°30/2000 of November 29, 2000. In fact, since the passage of this law, personal use of all drugs is no longer a crime. Additionally, the acquisition and possession of these products are no longer criminalised, so long as it is for personal use. Portugal forbids the production, importation, and sale of hemp used for recreational purposes. Possession of plants, drugs, or preparations in amounts that do not exceed what is necessary for the average person to consume over the course of a 10-day period is not regarded as a crime. The use of cannabis for medical purposes is legal under Portuguese law, provided that the essential conditions are met and the required licences are obtained. Law No. 33/2018 of July 18 and Decree-Law No. 8/2019 of January 15 on the use of medicines, preparations, and substances based on the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes, defining its principles and objectives, as well as the regulation and supervision of activities related to the use of the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes, set forth the legal framework in Portugal. In 2001, Portugal decriminalised all drugs on the recommendation of a multi-disciplined expert group. They suggested that the country concentrate efforts on harm reduction programmes, harm reduction education, extending access to treatment, and other support networks (e.g. connections to family). The crime of drug trafficking is still a crime. A threshold amount of a drug, defined as roughly 10 days’ worth of personal supply, is used to separate personal usage from trafficking. The Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction in Portugal evaluates anyone caught with drugs in their possession or using them. Ministerial Order No. 83/2021, dated April 15, sets forth the requirements for the instruction of applications and procedures regarding the granting of permissions for the exercise of activities related to the cultivation, manufacture, wholesale trade, transport, circulation, import, and export of medications, preparations, and substances based on the cannabis plant. Ministerial Order No. 14/2022, dated January 5, amends articles 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 of that Order. The recently proposed amendment aims to solve several difficulties with the inadequate control of cannabis plants growing for both medical and non-medical uses. The amendment distinguishes between the growth of the cannabis plant for other reasons and the growing of hemp specifically for industrial use.

The Netherlands 

To possess, sell, or manufacture drugs is against the law in the Netherlands. Hard drugs cause more health problems than soft drugs do. As a result, under very strict guidelines, coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis in the Netherlands. In a coffee shop, marijuana is available for purchase, but no alcoholic beverages are served or consumed. This is a component of the Dutch tolerance policy.

In the Netherlands, cannabis use for recreational purposes is publicly accepted. The Dutch government’s regulations state that growing five or less hemp plants at home is not illegal.

In accordance with federal regulations, coffee shops that adhere to the so-called AHOJ-G standards—no overt advertising, no hard drugs, no annoyance, no underage patrons, and no huge quantities—may sell recreational cannabis to customers at retail prices. Thus, despite being illegal from a legal standpoint, small-scale cannabis sales are sometimes exempt from prosecution. However, it is still strictly prohibited to grow cannabis for personal use and supply it to coffee shops.

Drugs with a low risk of harm (referred to as “soft drugs”) and drugs with a high risk of harm (referred to as “hard drugs”) are separated by the Dutch Opium Act 2002. The Act forbids the use, possession, and trade of cannabis because it falls under the soft drug category (Category II), yet state policy openly tolerates use in specific situations (see “Recreational use” below).

Since 2003, medical marijuana use has been legal in the Netherlands. A well-established structure that permits access to medicinal cannabis is the Dutch framework. It is a closed system, though. The Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) has complete control over all cannabis-related operations and closely regulates them all. This means that permission must be sought before using, importing, or selling cannabis for medical purposes. 

Switzerland 

Recently, Switzerland has also joined various other European Union nations in legalising the medical use of cannabis. Cannabis is legal to grow, sell, and import for medical purposes. However, there is a differentiation between cannabis and other cannabis that has a THC content of at least 1%. Furthermore, CBD is not regarded as a narcotic like THC is.

Drug law violations, such as the unauthorised growing of cannabis with a THC content of more than 1%, can result in a 20-year prison sentence (plus a monetary fine). A prison sentence of up to ten years may be imposed for violating the regulations on medicinal products, such as promoting a drug without a marketing authorisation (plus a monetary fine). Legal entities that violate the law may be fined up to CHF 5,000,000.

By changing the Swiss Narcotics Act, which the parliament adopted in March 2021, the Federal Council of Switzerland (the federal government of the Swiss Confederation) abolished the prohibition on cannabis for medical purposes in the nation. The Federal Council used the rise in demand for authorizations as justification for legalising medical marijuana across the nation. This resulted in a significant administrative burden and impeded medical treatment, which no longer fits the exceptionalism allowed under the Narcotics Act.

Thailand

The first Asian nation to decriminalise cannabis was Thailand, but there was a catch. Decriminalization makes it legal to cultivate marijuana plants, trade hemp products, and use some elements of the plant to treat disease. However, it is still unlawful to take the substance recreationally. The government also issued a strong warning to foreign visitors, advising them not to travel to Thailand with the expectation that they will be allowed to smoke cannabis openly.

By amending the 1979 Narcotics Act, the regulatory liberalisation of cannabis for medical purposes began on February 19, 2019. Cannabis was categorised as a category 5 drug, i.e., a prohibited substance, in Thailand before the amendment, severely restricting any activity involving the plants and their derivatives.

With a few exceptions, the importing of these goods is still mostly forbidden. The Thai government agencies importing such products for patient treatment, public academic institutions importing for research, and any individual importing for clinical trials are exempt from this restriction, provided they comply with the licencing requirements of the Thai FDA under the Herbal Products Act 2019.

Jamaica 

Before the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended in 2015 to decriminalise the possession of up to 56.6 grammes of cannabis for personal use, marijuana was illegal in Jamaica. The modification makes the possession subject to a 500 Jamaican dollars ($5, approximately) fine. The amendment permits use for therapeutic, research, and medical purposes. As the first nation to officially allow marijuana for religious use, Jamaicans who follow the Rastafarian religion are permitted to consume the drug for sacramental rituals. For personal use, Jamaicans are allowed to grow up to five plants. The crime of public marijuana smoking carries a $500 JMD fine. Cannabis smoking is permitted in private households and regulated dispensaries.

With the legalisation of medical marijuana, the Jamaican Ministry of Health collaborated with the Cannabis Licensing Authority to develop guidelines for the opening of dispensaries. In 2018, Jamaica’s first dispensaries began operating, and the island is currently home to numerous medical marijuana dispensaries.

Mexico

Years before official prohibition in the US started in 1937, cannabis was first outlawed in Mexico in 1920.

Since the federal government decriminalised small amounts of several other drugs in 2009, including cannabis, the possession of up to five grams of cannabis for personal use is now effectively legal. This move was made by the government to free up resources and distinguish public health issues from traffic-related crimes.

The freedom to use cannabis recreationally has been recognised by the Supreme Court of Mexico. The Court believed that cultivating and preparing cannabis in an amount that is acceptable for one person to consume is a human right that citizens have. 5 grams per person is the maximum for both possession and transportation. These decisions do not apply to everyone in society. A person must be at least 18 years old, submit to a constitutional trial, receive a favourable verdict, and obtain a permit from the authorities in order to have the right to cultivate and consume cannabis.

The National Commission for Addictions of Mexico must grant permission for personal usage. Six plants for personal use and eight plants for households with more than two people may be grown under this authorisation. The weight restriction for cannabis in transport and possession will increase from 5 to 28 grammes. A licence from the National Commission on Addictions is necessary for the commercial cultivation and sale of cannabis.

Chile 

The South American country of Chile is a nation where cannabis cannot be purchased or imported for recreational use. However, self-cultivation is permitted, allowing each person to grow their own cannabis, but it must only be used for personal consumption.

Chile has a lengthy history with cannabis. In Chile, cannabis was actually first grown commercially in the 1500s. Since the 1940s, cannabis has grown in popularity as a preferred drug. The drug’s recreational and therapeutic uses gained popularity mainly because of the foreign sailors. Since then, its appeal hasn’t diminished.

Chile has the highest cannabis consumption rate in all of Latin America. Since 2014, the plant has been grown throughout the nation, but only for medical uses. The majority of the cannabis consumed in the nation is imported from its neighbours.

In pharmacies, the sale of medical products derived from cannabis was permitted as of December 2015. Although Chile has decriminalised cannabis, that does not make it “legal.” Similar to  Like its neighbours in Latin and Central America, Chile is overcoming the drug war. The forward march, both locally and internationally, as well as more generally, will unquestionably affect policy in the country. 

The punishment for medical professionals who prescribe cannabis without sufficient cause is imprisonment in its lowest to medium grades (five years and one day to 15 years) and a fine of roughly USD 2,800 to USD 30,000. The supplier is subject to the same sanctions in addition to a permanent or temporary closure of the business.

The laws governing narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances, which include the anti-trafficking law No. 20.000 of 2005, were amended in 2015 to make it easier to get cannabis-based medicines and treatments. In order to permit the use of cannabis and its derivatives for scientific or medical research objectives as well as in medicinal treatments, the Institute of Public Health Chile proposed amendments to the current laws.

Is weed legal in India

India is a predominantly conservative society when it comes to the open consumption of the majority of intoxicants. History says that cannabis had been lawful in India for at least 3,000 years, although alcohol is still taboo in some parts of Indian society. However, India passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (hereinafter referred to as the NDPS Act) of 1985 in response to growing global pressure. A large variety of cannabis plant derivatives were made illegal by the Act. The NDPS Act of 1985 is the main piece of legislation in India that regulates cannabis (weed or marijuana). The government may permit the growth of any cannabis plant for horticultural or industrial reasons exclusively, such as to obtain fibre or seed, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, forbids the production, possession, and use of bhang and substances containing bhang without a permit in Maharashtra. The Indian Constitution‘s Article 47 grants the state the power to restrict or outlaw the use of intoxicating substances other than for medical needs. 

Now, let us briefly understand the Indian law on weed.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

Prior to the NDPS Act, there was no formal regulation of drugs and narcotics in India; as a result, three acts of the Central Government were primarily used to regulate drugs: the Opium Act of 1857, the Opium Act of 1878, and the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1930.

Section 2 (iii) and (iv) of the NDPS Act, 1986 define weed as – 

“(iii) cannabis (hemp) means: 

Charas, or separated resin obtained from the cannabis plant in any form, whether crude or purified, as well as concentrated preparations and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish; 

Ganja refers to the flowers or fruits of a cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), whatever their name or designation may be; and whether any of the above forms of cannabis are mixed with or without any neutral material; 

(iv) Cannabis plant refers to any plant of the genus Cannabis;”

  • Bhang is not listed as a part of the cannabis plant under the NDPS Act’s definition of the drug. All of the flowers or resins that are cannabis, hash, or bhang were illegally sold and consumed before 1985 and the NDPS Act, and the situation was altered by the NDPS Act. India fought against the US-led drive to have a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND) signed into law in 1961 for 25 years. India passed the NDPS Act in 1986, making it illegal to use marijuana and other dangerous drugs. 
  • India was persuaded by cannabis and its resins after the World Health Organisation published a recommendation highlighting several elements of the plant. As a result, India voted with 27 other nations to remove cannabis from the list of substances that are outlawed. Section 2(3) of the NDPS Act, which specifies which parts of cannabis will be considered marijuana and so punished, defines the various forms of cannabis used in India.

By signing the SCND international treaty in 1961, India designated marijuana as a “hard drug.” 

The NDPS Act outlaws the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers but allows states to control and enforce local laws regarding the usage of cannabis seeds and leaves. Section 10 of the NDPS Act, 1985 gives the states this ability. Anybody found in possession of any of these cannabis plant components may be taken into custody.

Additionally, under Section 25 of the NDPS Act, a person will be penalised even if they do not themselves smoke marijuana or own any of it, but they permit its use on their property or know about it.

One of the Act’s primary flaws is that it assumes the accused is guilty, placing the entire burden of establishing his innocence on him. Those suspected of crimes covered by Sections 19, 24, or 27A of the NDPS Act, as well as those involving large quantities of drugs, are not eligible for bail. Although the Indian legal system presumes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Sometimes, after spending a lot of time in detention during the investigation, suspects who were arrested for possessing a small amount of drugs are released. 

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was presented in the Lok Sabha on December 6, 2021, which replaced the  Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021. The Bill amends the NDPS Act of 1985 to fix a drafting error. The Act describes the laws and standards governing specific activities involving narcotic and psychotropic substances (such as their production, transportation, and consumption).

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is the supreme body that oversees all federal and state-level drug policy issues. It gathers intelligence and details about illegal farming as well as the manufacture, sale, and transportation of narcotics and other compounds that the government has outlawed or forbidden. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances are two international conventions that the Narcotics Control Bureau abides by. The agency may confiscate, make an arrest, or perform a raid after receiving leads about illegal actions being carried out by anyone or in any location. The agency has published a handbook titled “Drug Law Enforcement Field Officer’s Handbook” to prevent cases where the accused is exonerated for technical reasons that were not addressed by the agency. NCB is further subdivided into zones and sub-zones where data from both zones is collated and then examined concerning all drug seizures and use. As a result of their research on different trends, they assist in drafting and enforcing state laws. It has a responsibility to uphold the NDPS Act and to fulfil the goal that the nation established when it passed the NDPS Act. 

Punishment related to weed in India 

Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 makes it unlawful to produce, sell, buy, transport, import, export, or engage in any other commercial transaction involving cannabis. The quantity of drugs in possession determines the punishment; the purpose of drug possession is irrelevant. Therefore, only the presence of actus reus, one of the two elements of crime—the other being mens rea—is required to bring charges under this Act.

As is common knowledge, punishment is based on the amount of possession. Therefore, we need to know how much of a certain quantity is for personal or commercial usage. 

Small QuantityCommercial Quantity
Hashish (Less than 100 grams)Hashish (More than 1 kilogram)
Opium (Less than 25 grams)Opium (More than 2.5 kilograms)
Ganja (Less than 1 kilogram)Ganja (More than 20 kilograms)

According to Section 20, cultivating is punishable by a fine of up to one lakh rupees and a term of hard labour that can last up to 10 years.

As per Section 20 (b) (ii): 

  • A fine of 10,000 rupees or a jail sentence of six months to a year may be imposed for possessing small amounts (100 grammes for charas, hashish, and 1000 grammes for ganja).
  • The court can impose a severe sentence of up to twenty years in jail and a fine of two lakh rupees if someone is found in possession of commercial amounts (1 kilogramme for charas and hashish, 20 kg for ganja).
  • Additionally, courts have the option to sentence a regular offender to 30 years in prison. Additionally, it is not required to sentence repeat offenders convicted of trafficking substantial amounts of drugs to death.

According to Section 25, a person will be subject to the same punishment as under Section 20 if they intentionally let their property be used to commit an infraction under the NDPS Act, 1985.

The penalties for using any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance are outlined in Section 27.

The offences under Section 27 of the NDPS are both cognizable and non-bailable (as mentioned under Section 37 of the NDPS Act).

The penalty for attempting to commit a crime listed under the NDPS Act is specified in Section 28. Thus, it is made clear that anybody who seeks to commit an offence punishable under this Chapter or causes an offence to be committed and takes any action that contributes to the conduct of the offence will be subject to the appropriate punishment. As it relates to marijuana, Section 28 addresses attempting, aiding, and conspiring to commit crimes.

The penalty for criminal conspiracy and abetment is laid out in Section 29. According to the law, anyone who aids or compels another person to commit an act which is considered to be a crime as per the Act is subject to punishment for that crime, regardless of whether the crime was performed as a result of the aid or complicity or as a result of the criminal conspiracy.

  • Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 can also be used if a minor is involved. Only minors under the age of 18 can be charged with marijuana offences under Section 18 of the JJ Act, 2015 because the NDPS Act does not apply to them. 

Decriminalisation v. legalisation 

There has been a debate going over the decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs for a long time. Drug abuse and other illegal activities associated with it have increased tremendously in recent years, making it a national issue of concern. The words ‘decriminalisation’ and ‘legalisation’ are used synonymously, but both have different meanings altogether. 

SubjectDecriminalisationLegalisation
DefinitionThe act of decriminalisation means that criminal sanctions are abolished against an act, a behaviour, or a thing. Decriminalisation of drugs means it will remain illegal but will amount to the non-prosecution of those offenders who possess it in a specific amount for personal consumption or for commercial use.The legalisation of drugs implies the abolition of all laws prohibiting them. This implies that the act or activity, as well as the sectors of the economy that support it, can be more strictly governed by laws and norms that must be upheld. If these rules are not followed, a person is breaking the law and may be subject to civil or criminal penalties. If some drugs were made legal, the government would regulate the buying, selling, and using of each drug in the same way that it does with alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and medications.Thus, similar to alcohol, cigarettes, and tobacco, an adult may obtain it, typically from a government-registered booth or drugstore, and may administer it as desired. 
RegulationThe penalty system will range from no penalties at all to criminal penalties and civil penalties, which could include reference to fines, drug education, or drug treatment. Regulations are often put in place to control the locations and methods for producing, dispensing, and using authorised drugs. If manufacture, sale, or consumption takes place in violation of the law, there may be criminal or civil sanctions. Alcohol is one example of a drug that is now legal. 
AdvantagesPeople who use drugs are less stigmatised and may be more inclined to utilise treatment services if drug possession and usage are decriminalised.  Decriminalisation may also lessen the strain on the court system and the amount of time that police and attorneys must spend on court cases and the cost of detention.It is believed that legalising drugs would, in some cases, aid in the fight against the problem of drug usage. Legalisation can ensure that users receive high-quality drugs because the production and distribution of drugs will be regulated by the Indian government after legalisation. 
IllustrationAround the world, numerous nations have decriminalised marijuana in some way, including Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway. Portugal is the most frequently cited example because it has drawn significant attention internationally. Around the world, various countries have legalised marijuana in some way, like Canada, Thailand, Uruguay, Morocco, Rwanda, Jamaica, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Lesotho. 

Drug legalisation is a controversial, multifaceted issue that has been around for a while. The legalisation of drugs is opposed by a sizable group of notable individuals both inside and outside of the political sphere. Numerous lives have been lost as a result of drug use, and the war on drugs has now accepted that it hasn’t really accomplished much. Drug users would receive high-quality, constant amounts of the same through a regulated drug market, which would reduce the likelihood of drug overdose. It would be safer to use with the aid of clear labelling, suitable instructions, and warnings available in a legalised system. 

Conclusion 

To summarise, as one reads about the legality of weed in India, the NDPS Act of 1985 elaborates on the punishments for having weed, subject to the quantity you possess. Irrespective of whether it is a small quantity or a big quantity, there is punishment. There has been a heated debate over legalisation and decriminalisation, and the author has tried to make it explicitly clear as to what the difference between the two is. Some nations have legalised cannabis in some shape or form for medical purposes, while others have allowed access to high-THC cannabis for medical use. Often, we look at the drawbacks and forget that there are positives, but we consider the negatives to outweigh the positives. Hence, this topic is of utmost significance as it creates awareness and knowledge among people, and it is important to understand the pros and cons of legalising and decriminalising weed in India and how it has happened in other countries. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Is cannabidiol (CBD) the same thing as marijuana? 

Cannabidiol is distinct from marijuana (CBD). The dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant are referred to as marijuana. Along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is one of the several substances that can be found in the cannabis plant. By alone, CBD does not result in a ‘high.’ Hemp, which is defined as any component of the Cannabis sativa plant containing no more than 0.3% THC, can also be produced using non-hemp plants.

Some nations have legalised marijuana. Does that mean it is safe to smoke? 

Marijuana is not generally safe to consume, even though it is permitted in some places for adults to do so for recreational or medical purposes. Marijuana use can have harmful effects on one’s health at any age:

  • Heavy marijuana use (daily or almost daily) can impair memory, concentration, and learning. This may last for a week or longer after the previous marijuana use.
  • The use of marijuana has been connected to schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, sadness, and social anxiety. Although it is unknown to scientists if marijuana usage directly causes certain health problems, it may exacerbate symptoms.

What effects can marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco have when combined? 

Using alcohol and marijuana together is likely to cause more impairment than using either substance alone. The risk of bodily damage may increase with higher disability. Inhaling more dangerous substances while using marijuana and cigarettes simultaneously may increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems (heart and blood vessels). 

Can non-smokers be harmed by marijuana smoke? 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that causes the majority of marijuana’s psychological effects (or the “high”), is present in secondhand marijuana smoke. Many of the hazardous and cancer-causing compounds found in tobacco smoke are also present in secondhand marijuana smoke, and some of these chemicals are present in higher concentrations. Children who are exposed to THC may experience adverse health impacts. The use of marijuana during adolescence has been linked to issues with memory, motivation, and attention, which raises the possibility that secondhand smoke exposure could have a similar detrimental influence on children’s health.

References 

  1. https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/marijuana-legalization.pdf 
  2. https://www.juscorpus.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/49.-Pratibha-Sahu.pdf
  3. https://adf.org.au/talking-about-drugs/law/decriminalisation/overview-decriminalisation-legalisation/
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-teenage-mind/201106/history-cannabis-in-india
  6. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/miron/files/two_mag._legalize_it.pdf
  7. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2021/12/29/these-european-countries-could-legalize-cannabis-in-2022/?sh=67c5a15a2514
  8. https://www.ijlmh.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Legalization-of-drugs-in-India.pdf
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747067/

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