This article is written by Anvita Bhardwaj, a student pursuing B.A. LL.B. from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. In this article, the author has discussed legality of weed while throwing light on various other aspects such as effects of consumption, punishment, the status of legality in other countries and legalisation in India.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
Cannabis in India is known by many names and exists in various forms. The most popular names are weed, charas, ganja, marijuana, etc. If you are a teenager or an adult, chances are you already know people who smoke this stuff or drink it on Holi. We are well aware that drinking bhang in Thandai is a common, socially acceptable practice. There has been a lot of hue and cry with respect to cannabis possession and consumption by celebs in the Bollywood industry. Amidst all this, the question that plagues the mind of a lot of people is “Is weed legal in India?” If you are someone who has wondered this as well, then this is the right place to find the answers. In this article, I will not only give detailed clarity on the legality of weed but also explore many other aspects related to it.
What is weed
The first question that comes to our mind is ‘what exactly is weed?’ Weed is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis Sativa family. Marijuana, which is native to Central and South Asia, has long been used as a recreational and entheogenic drug, as well as in numerous traditional remedies. The main psychoactive component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of the 500 recognised chemical compounds in the plant, including at least 100 additional cannabinoids. It also contains cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis can be used in a variety of ways, including smoking, vaporising, cooking with it, and extracting it. It is also used for medicinal purposes.
Is weed legal in India
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 is the central law in India that deals with cannabis (weed or marijuana). Different states, on the other hand, have their own legislation governing weed or marijuana consumption, possession, sale, or purchase. Possession of these narcotics is generally considered to be criminal conduct in India, and it can put you in legal trouble.
So, as of now, weed is not legal in India. However, there is a loophole for marijuana consumption.
Weed as defined under the NDPS Act, 1985
As per Section 2 (iii) and (iv) of the NDPS Act, 1985, weed is defined as:
“(iii) cannabis (hemp) means:
- charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;
- ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and
- any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink, prepared therefrom;
(iv) cannabis plant means any plant of the genus cannabis;”
The NDPS Act’s definition of cannabis does not include bhang as a component of the plant.
The NDPS Act forbids the sale and manufacturing of cannabis resin and flowers, but the use of cannabis plant leaves and seeds is legal, with states having the authority to regulate and implement state rules. The states derive this authority from Section 10 of the NDPS Act, 1985. Anyone caught in possession of any of these cannabis plant parts could be arrested.
Position of legality of weed in different states
There is no complete ban on cannabis under NDPS Act and it can be used for medical, scientific, industrial, horticultural purposes by taking requisite permissions from respective state governments.
- Odisha is one such State in India where marijuana is legal, and residents typically use ‘chillums’ to enjoy it within the State’s borders.
- Uttarakhand is the first Indian State to legalise commercial hemp farming. Many other hilly states are considering allowing regulated production of hemp and marijuana because it is a rich crop that requires less water.
- In Assam, the sale, possession, purchase, and consumption of ganja and bhang are all prohibited under the Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958.
- In Maharashtra, the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949 makes it illegal to manufacture, possess, or consume bhang and bhang-containing substances without a licence.
Loophole for consumption of weed
Bhang, a form of marijuana, is an exception. It is not only legal but also socially acceptable. On many levels, the use of bhang and other kinds of cannabis is deeply established in Hindu scriptures and mythology. Cannabis is one of the five sacred plants in the world, according to the Atharva Veda. Bhang is used as a penicillin alternative in Ayurveda. It is the nectar of the Gods and according to Hindu beliefs, Lord Shiva frequently consumed bhang.
What will happen to you if you are caught carrying weed in India
There are three legislations that determine punishment if you are caught carrying weed in India. These are:
- The NDPS Act, 1985
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000
- State laws
The production, sale, purchase, transportation, interstate import/export, or any other commercial activity of cannabis is illegal under Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985. The intention of drug possession is irrelevant, and the punishment is determined by the quantity of drugs in possession. Therefore, out of the two ingredients of crime i.e., actus reus and mens rea, only actus reus is enough to prosecute a person under this Act. If a person is arrested with drugs or is found to be a drug addict, he or she will not be prosecuted if he or she agrees to go through de-addiction treatment voluntarily. If you permit your property to be used for cultivation, you will be liable under Section 25 of the NDPS Act and will face the same penalties as stated under Section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985.
Section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985 : punishment for possession of weed
As we know, punishment is dependent upon the quantity of possession. Therefore, we should understand how much quantity comes under personal consumption or commercial use.
- Hashish or Charas: 100 grams or less
- Opium: 25 grams or less
- Ganja: 1kg or less
- Hashish or Charas: 1 kg or more
- Opium: 2.5 kgs or more
- Ganja: 20 kgs or more
For cultivation of any cannabis plant
- The statutory punishment for a term extending up to ten years, and a fine extending up to Rs. 1 lakh.
For production, manufacture, possession, sale and purchase, transportation, inter-state import and extort
- The statutory punishment for possessing a small quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of Rs. 10,000, or both.
- The statutory punishment for possessing more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
- The statutory punishment for possessing commercial quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, a fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.
Other sections of the NDPS Act related to punishment for possession/consumption of weed
Section 27 lays down the punishment in cases of consumption of any of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
Nature of the offence
The offences committed under Section 27 of the NDPS are non-bailable and cognizable (as mentioned under Section 37 of the NDPS Act).
Section 28 states the punishment for an attempt to commit an offence mentioned under the NDPS Act. It is thereby stated that whoever attempts to commit any offence punishable under this Chapter or to cause such offence to be committed and in such an attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence shall be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.
This Section states the punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy. It is stated that whoever abets, or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit any offence punishable, shall, whether the offence is or be not committed in consequence of such abetment or in pursuance of such criminal conspiracy, be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.
Legalisation of weed : an ongoing debate
Legalisation of marijuana is a controversial topic. Proponents argue that there are many benefits attached to it while opponents are concerned about the adverse effects it will have on individual and public health. Let us look at some arguments from both sides:
Proponents of weed legalisation
- The very first argument is that despite weed being illegal, it is pretty easily available in all parts of the country. Smoking accessories such as rolling papers, pre-made joints are sold online and are easily accessible offline. Illicit marketplaces have developed as a result of criminalisation, which have been defined by violence, corruption, and the enrichment of cartels.
- The justification for arresting, fining, criminalising, and forcing a marijuana user into treatment is presumably that people need the government to protect them from themselves, from the evils of their decision to use marijuana. The harm of deeming someone a criminal, on the other hand, is greater than the potential harm produced by marijuana.
- People could have benefitted from medicine derived from cannabis. Only if the government allowed research and development of medicine. When you will not allow the scientists to research and doctors to conduct clinical trials then how will we know about the medical efficacy of weed? Anecdotal evidence has brought to light that weed consumption helps relieve pain, creates an appetite for cancer patients and helps people suffering from HIV-AIDS.
- The government has grossly exaggerated the dangers of marijuana when there are significantly fewer health-related consequences connected with marijuana use than there are with alcohol use, and alcohol usage is associated with far more violent and aggressive conduct.
- Weed criminalisation makes it impossible for the government to have any kind of control over the production and distribution. Marijuana cannot be tested for purity or potency because it is illegal to possess. There is no way to protect yourself from harmful pesticides, pollutants, moulds, germs, or even marijuana lacing. There are no safety restrictions in place. There will be no testing. People are completely unaware of what they are consuming. If regulated, producers and sellers would follow rules regarding health and safety, security, and zoning, among other things. When the foods and chemicals we consume are regulated, everyone benefits.
- There have been 0 deaths recorded due to the consumption of weed to date.
- Lastly, legalising and regulating weed would be beneficial as the government can collect tax on it.
Opponents of weed legalisation
This is a summary of official reasons given by the Indian government as to why weed should not be legalised.
- Weed is a gateway drug. Once an individual starts smoking weed, they will get access to other, more harmful drugs such as heroin, cocaine, etc.
- There isn’t any hard evidence that justifies its therapeutic use. There haven’t been many clinical trials with respect to using weed for medicinal purposes. Data appraising the effectiveness of marijuana is limited and often only anecdotal.
- Not good for immunocompromised people as regulation for growth of it is not standardised. The crude plant may have mould or fungus which would cause more harm than good for immunocompromised people.
- There are many active cannabinoids. We have no means of knowing which cannabis combinations are beneficial and which are harmful.
- Long-term effects of smoking weed on the lungs may be harmful. Negative long term health effects may affect other parts of the body, for example, the brain. It also results in impairment of cognitive thinking for a short term.
- Weed is not addictive, it is merely a myth. Data has been found that shows it may be addictive in 10% of the cases. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, etc.
- Increased risk for short- and long-term psychosis for adolescents.
Countries where weed is legal
It is the first country in the world that legalised weed for recreational purposes. People above the age of 18 would only have to make sure they are formally registered with the government before purchasing, selling, or cultivating anything. Commercial weed is now available in Uruguay’s pharmacies as of 2017. This is the liberal vision of the future.
Marijuana consumption is permitted in Canada for both recreational and therapeutic purposes. Publically, people aged 18 and older are permitted to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in either dried or non-dried form. People can also grow up to four marijuana plants from legal seedlings at home. Only licensed retailers and producers are allowed to sell cannabis.
Carrying weed home is illegal in the Netherlands, but you can enjoy it simply by stepping into a coffee shop. Officials permit the sale of cannabis because it is “illegal but not punishable,” so long as stores obey certain restrictions, such as not promoting or creating a nuisance.
Marijuana consumption, possession, and cultivation became legal in South Africa in 2018. However, the use of space outside of one’s home for the sale and consumption of marijuana is still illegal. South Africa’s government published a master plan in August aimed at tapping a 28-billion-rand ($1.9-billion) cannabis economy that could generate 25,000 jobs and help attract international investment.
You are free to smoke whatever you want without facing any penalties or legal consequences. You’re fine as long as you smoke it in the privacy of your own house or on private land. While it is technically illegal to consume marijuana in public in Spain, purchasing from a Spanish cannabis club is an exception. Consumers can also buy marijuana at clubs. Only Spanish citizens are eligible for membership.
- United States of America
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 makes it illegal for anyone in the United States to use or possess cannabis for any reason. Cannabis is classed as a Schedule I substance under the CSA, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no recognised medicinal benefit, making even medical usage of the drug illegal. State policies on medical and recreational cannabis usage, on the other hand, vary widely, and many states’ policies conflict with federal law.
In the USA, recreational and medicinal use is not legal throughout the country. Out of 51 states, 18 states have legalised the use of recreational weed while 37 states allow the medicinal use of weed if you have a doctor’s prescription.
Should India legalise weed
The government in India can choose to legalise weed. Legalising weed would be more beneficial than harmful for India.
If India establishes a legal market, it would provide greater safety and product quality assurance. As a result, the chance of being victimised while buying weed, the risk of being sanctioned, search costs (particularly for first-time purchasers), and the psychological discomfort associated with purchasing an illegal good is all reduced. From the consumer’s perspective, this translates to lower quality-adjusted relative prices. Furthermore, once the market is legalised, retail prices would fall on average due to reducing supply-side risk. Given that cannabis is a commonly consumed item, lowering its price should result in more consumption.
Secondly, legalisation of weed would bring in a lot more tax revenue. It is a rich crop, i.e., high in monetary value. Moreover, there would be generation of employment once the government regulates it. It would lead to job creation. So, one good reason for legalisation is the potential economic benefits of marijuana’s regulated commercial availability. Increased tax income, employment creation, and investment opportunities are all compelling reasons to support legalisation.
Thirdly, we will be able to tap into the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of weed. Government can allow research and clinical trials.
Fourthly, the environmental benefits of decriminalisation of weed in India cannot be ignored. Not only can we use the plant for medicinal purposes, but we can also use it to replace over 50,000 products currently in use in society that cause an entire chain of environmental harm from extraction to processing to manufacturing to transportation to consumption to disposal and recycling into eco-friendly, biodegradable, renewable alternatives.
The Great Legalisation Movement India
The Great Legalisation Movement India (GLM India) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to making cannabis use legal in India for medical and industrial uses. Viki Vaurora founded it in November 2014. In many Indian communities, the social stigma attached to cannabis has existed for a long time. The campaign’s goal is to educate people about cannabis’ history and uses in order to prepare the way for its legalisation, which will kick off a nationwide green industrial revolution that will replace thousands of environmentally harmful products with sustainable hemp-based alternatives.
The official website gives us the information that GLM filed a petition at the Delhi High Court in July 2019.
As per GLM, it’s not just about smoking marijuana.
Weed has nutrition, medicinal remedies, and ecological and environmental benefits. This plant has the ability to re-invent the entire way humans live, with a tremendous impact on our entire environment and ecology. Cannabis as a crop is humanity’s best hope for undoing the harms of twentieth-century living and forging a better future by increasing its usage throughout the twenty-first century.
Long and short term effects of smoking weed
Weed has mind-altering components. This affects you both physically and mentally. THC travels from the lungs to the bloodstream when someone smokes marijuana. It then travels to the brain and other organs. THC binds to a receptor on the surface of nerve cells in the brain. THC’s actions on the nerve cells that regulate sensory perception and pleasure cause the marijuana ‘high.’
You get high
Getting high is nothing but THC’s effect on your brain. For most people, it alters the mind in such a way that they enter a state of euphoria, they feel calm and happy. However, it is pertinent to note that the effect of smoking weed may not always be positive.
Short term effect of weed on the brain
THC binds to receptors on nerve cells in various areas of the brain, affecting intelligence, memory, coordination, and concentration. This can have unfavourable consequences, such as:
- difficulty with memory, forgetfulness;
- loss of coordination;
- challenges with thinking and problem solving; and
- erroneous perception.
Though these adverse effects are fleeting and short-lived, they can make it risky to do activities like driving while you are high on marijuana. Other short-term effects that people may notice are a rise in appetite and a drop in inhibitions that can make you feel lightheaded or drowsy.
Emotional effects of smoking weed
While smoking weed puts your mind in a euphoric state, continued and regular use can lead to anxiety or depression. If someone has a diagnosis like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, consuming marijuana can make symptoms worse.
Harmful for lungs
Smoking weed irritates and inflames the lungs. You may have the same lung issues as someone who smokes cigarettes if you smoke weed on a regular basis. People who consume weed frequently may develop respiratory issues such as excessive mucus, a chronic cough, and bronchitis.
Now that you have gone through the article and reached the end, I am sure you have a lot of new information. And if you have just skimmed through the article, let me summarise it for you. Smoking weed in India is not legal. However, the one and only exemption for it is consuming it as bhang. The NDPS Act, 1985 lays down the punishment for carrying weed on the basis of the quantity you possess. For possessing a small quantity you can face rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of Rs. 10,000, or both. For a quantity that is more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity you can face rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both. For possessing commercial quantity you can face rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, a fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.
Many countries in the world have adopted the use of weed for both recreational and medicinal purposes. It is my sincere belief that rather than focusing on the drawbacks of weed, the government should see that the positives outweigh the negatives. One of the many reasons is because the negatives can be controlled and regulated by the government. Many of the problems listed by the government can be tackled easily such as:
- Legalisation would create regulated markets, weed would not be a gateway drug;
- Conducting more research would make it possible to ascertain if the drug has therapeutic use;
- The problems of mould and fungus associated with crude marijuana can be inspected as after regulation of weed there would be concerned authorities to deal with contamination and adulteration issues;
The revenue generated would be beneficial especially for the hilly areas where weed can be cultivated. Because those areas receive less rainfall and weed requires less water to grow, commercialisation in such areas would be beneficial.
Lastly, I would like to conclude by saying that drug use is very different from drug abuse. It is in the hands of individuals if they want to abuse weed consumption as, despite criminalisation, people have easy access to it.
How do I quit smoking weed
If you’re someone who has started noticing some side effects and want to stop smoking weed, here is how you can quit it.
Marijuana has the potential to be addictive. One out of every ten people who use marijuana on a regular basis may develop a “marijuana use disorder.” These people are unable to stop using marijuana, despite the fact that it is giving them trouble. People who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are significantly more prone to develop this condition.
When people, who have used marijuana for a long time, try to quit they may experience withdrawal symptoms. They may feel irritated, restless and anxious, or depressed. They may face difficulties while eating or sleeping as they would be prone to loss of appetite and insomnia. It usually becomes worse after a day or two of not taking marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms will eventually fade after that. They normally go away once the person stops using the drug for a week or two.
How to quit smoking weed
- Firstly, you need to have a strong resolve in your mind. No one can help you quit unless and until you are determined to.
- Recognize that you cannot help yourself, you need to accept help from friends, family and professionals.
- Make it clear to your friends that you do not want to continue. Do not give into peer pressure. Change your company if your friends try to force you.
- If you are afraid to tell your parents, you can take help from your siblings or cousins and confide in them.
- Finally, make sure you see a counsellor to guide you through the process. Since they are bound by a contract of confidentiality, it is best to trust them and seek professional help from them.
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