In this blog post, Nalini Chandrakar, a student of Hidayatullah National Law University, and Vineet Kumar, a student of National Law University of Odisha writes deal with positive and negative aspects of usage of marijuana, laws currently governing marijuana in India and status of marijuana in other countries.
What is Marijuana? Marijuana is a drug made up of hemp plant called Cannabis Sativa. The cannabis plant is also used to make paper, fuel, soap, rope, maps, net, lace, jute bags, oil for lightning, paint, animal food, lotions, etc. Production of marijuana has been present in India since the ancient period- the era of thriving gods and goddesses. The current status of marijuana in India is defined as an illicit drug because if smoked and inhaled in high dosage, it results in psychological or physical side effects. Marijuana is just a plant whose production helps in generating many useful products for our daily survival. Why should the government ban marijuana when it is aware of the fact that its production helps in the manufacture of many useful products. Eventually, there are states whose income depends on the cultivation of cannabis. Keeping in mind the original uses of marijuana, I believe that marijuana should be legalized in India.
The rationale behind banning it in India
Schedule 1 (Class 1) drugs are illegal because they have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns; for example, narcotics such as Heroin, LSD, and cocaine. Marijuana is also included as a Class 1 drug despite it being legal in some states and it being used as a medicinal drug in some states.
Ban in the United States
Harry J Anslinger, in 1930 was appointed as the director for the recently created Federal Bureau of Narcotics and his 1st campaign was to put an end to the use of marijuana in the US. Using mass media as his tool, he campaigned to restrict to the use of marijuana. Due to his aggressive reports and the panicked reaction of parents with regards to the health of their children, US government put a ban on marijuana categorizing it with hard drugs. United Nation Convention against illicit trafficking of drugs was held in 1988 and therefore the US banned marijuana and other drugs too. Besides this, the US forced other states to put a ban on their legal use of marijuana and other such drugs and regulate their drugs act accordingly.
Why did India ban marijuana?
Use of bhang and charas was legal in India, but the US had been forcing India to put a banned on their production marijuana since 1961. Finally, in 1985, the Indian government passed the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and put a ban on the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers. However, government permitted the use of leaves and seeds allowing the states to regulate it accordingly.
Customary usage of marijuana in India
When it comes to customary usage of cannabis, the first thing which clicks our mind is Lord Shiva. The festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated by offering cannabis to Lord Shiva. The festival makes consumption of Bhang acceptable as it is stated in the Hindu scriptures that bhang is used to purify the elixir of life Lord Shiva which he created from his body. Therefore, marijuana was completely legal in the historical period, and there was no policing done to its usage.
Uses and effects of marijuana
In the 20th century, ban on usage of marijuana. It turned out to be a restriction on possession, use, and sale of cannabis preparations containing psychoactive cannabinoids presently banned in most countries across the globe, particularly in India; the UN has aforementioned that cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world. Cannabis has psychoactive and physiological effects once consumed. Other than that a subjective modification in perception and, most notably, mood, the foremost common short-run physical and neurological effects which embody increased pulse rate, raised appetite, lowered blood pressure level, impairment of short-term and dealing with misbalance of content and coordination. Long-run effects are less clear. In humans, comparatively few adverse clinical health effects are documented from chronic cannabis use.
Positive aspects of using marijuana
Weight Loss – According to a 2011 by the American Journal of Medicine, fatness is lower in those people who use cannabis in comparison to nonusers. In animal tests, the drug additionally had an effect on the amount of fat within the body as well as its response to internal secretion. Cannabis compounds were shown to lift metabolism in rats, resulting in lower levels of fat in the liver and lower cholesterol. Human trials are being conducted to seek out a drug targeting obesity-related diseases.
Medical Usage – Weed and medical science share an old connection with each other. It’s prescribed to cancer patients when they undergo chemotherapy. According to a study in the UK it has been found that marijuana can stop metastasis in some aggressive cancer. Researchers also say that using marijuana can kill cancer cells in leukemia patients. It’s also useful in curing AIDS, lowered intraocular eye pressure, as well as general analgesic effects.
Psychoactive Drug – It falls in the group of anti-depressants, hallucinogens, giving relief to the person from all sort of pain for few hours. Marijuana is a mixture of all these properties making it most hunted after. THC is naturally considered as the key component of the cannabis plant; various scientific studies have suggested that certain other cannabinoids like CBD may also play a major role in its psychoactive effects.
Migraines – Cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties which help in providing relief to the patient. In fact, the effects are said to be a “thousand times more effective than that of aspirin.” Doctors in California have treated more than 3, 00,000 or more than that migraine cases with the usage of medical marijuana. It has resulted in effective treatment of a host of illnesses and conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer diseases.
Addictiveness – As per the study conducted by National Institute of Drug Abuse on the relative addictiveness of few substances namely cannabis, caffeine, cocaine, alcohol, heroin and nicotine. Weed was ranked the least addictive and caffeine the second least addictive.
Harmful Aspects of Marijuana
Tar Build up – It is a massive one. However, it is conjointly a risk that may be entirely avoided if you select to try and do so. Tar buildup happens once you inhale smoke from marijuana. Although it’s troublesome to check with the naked eye, smoke from dried herbs contains thousands of little-burned plant particles. Once these particles come in contact with each other, they settle, and accumulate. These particles then produce a tar-like organic compound which is harmful to lungs.
Gateway to drugs – This theory states that the utilization of less harmful drugs could cause a future risk of victimization to a lot of dangerous medicine. Cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco are attributed to the current theory. Some scientific studies show that the consumption of cannabis can probably predict a major higher risk for the next use of “harder” illicit drugs, whereas different studies show that it cannot. A ten-year long study conducted in Australia found that adults of twenty-four years used a drug referred to as amphetamines which were preceded by the employment of cannabis. In 2006, a counter-study was conducted on rats, in Sweden, that examined the brains of the rats when dosing them with cannabis and found that THC alters the opioid system that’s related to positive emotions, which lessens that effects of opiates on the rat’s brain and therefore causes them to use a lot of heroin. The rats were given tetrahydrocannabinol at the young age of twenty-eight days. It is impossible to extrapolate the results of this study to humans.
Reduction in REM sleep – Cannabis users might get a lot of deep sleep; however they additionally spend less time in REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. Once we’re in this sleep phase, our body is at it’s nearest to being awake. Unsurprisingly, REM is the final section of the 90-minute sleep cycle. Coincidentally, REM sleep is the time you’re capable of having vivid dreams and nightmares. Researchers still don’t understand why this sleep cycle is helpful to our health. But, one leading theory is that it provides certain components of our brain a rest, namely, the components which secrete serotonin and histamine.
Indian laws and marijuana
According to section 2 (iii) of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985- 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 from that place;
Now as per NDPS, the definition does not cover bhang. This states that consumption of bhang can be taken as legal. So yes, selling of bhang on festive occasions is legalized by the Indian government. It is mostly sold in religious cities or ghats in Northern India by special vendors permitted by the state government. The state selling bhang has to keep an eye over the sellers as bhang can be used to prepare more potent intoxicants.
In the case of Arjun Singh v State of Haryana, the Chandigarh High Court stated that considering the NDPS Act, bhang is not “cannabis (hemp)” under the act, but it is a “cannabis plant.” Under the limitations of the law, it’s therefore not illegal to consume cannabis leaves, but production of a plant is illegal.
Further, Section 8 states that no one shall cultivate the opium poppy or any cannabis plant with an exception for medical or scientific functions within the manner and to the extent provided by the provisions of this Act. Medical use and research of marijuana are, thus, legal in India as per this section; recreational usage is strictly prohibited and illegal.
The problem here is NDPS Act does not deal equally with ganja, charas, and bhang. As bhang is not covered under the definition of cannabis, it is consumed legally on a large scale. Isn’t this incongruity meant to confuse the citizens of India? I believe that if there is a need to prohibit the use of cannabis, then every sort of cannabis should be banned, not only a few. Further, the point of granting an exception to the medical use of cannabis is highly impossible to seek permission, for its medical and scientific experimentation and purposes. The government’s strict intolerance policy has blinded it from noticing the apparent use of it and made it lose its focus from effectively fulfilling its duties and responsibilities.
International Status of Marijuana
Portugal was the 1st country in the world to decriminalize the use of every drug. They consider drug users as sick rather than criminals. Consumption is decriminalized up to 25g for weed, 5g for hash and 2.5g for THC oil.
Switzerland has decriminalized the use of marijuana to some extent. In 2012, the Cantons Vaud, Neuchatel, Geneva, and Fribourg permitted the growing and cultivation of weed up to 4 cannabis plants per person in an attempt to curb illegal street trafficking.
In Netherlands, the drugs are classified in two categories – hard drugs and soft drugs, where cannabis is classified under soft drugs. Consumption of soft drug for personal use has no active prosecution. Dutch has its own ‘Policy of Tolerance’ for such uses. Based on this tolerance policy, cannabis coffee shops are being established in Netherlands where sale of weed for personal consumption is tolerated by local Police Officers, especially in Amsterdam. Dutch government keeps a check on local smokers to show identification and registration in a database called the “cannabis card” to control drug-related issues. Consumption of hard drugs is restricted in Netherlands. The sale of cannabis in small amount is allowed only by licensed coffee shops.
Why should India legalize marijuana?
Socio-economic benefits of marijuana
- The help of local people – In states like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow, and 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 low price to the drug dealers, and they face additional pressure from the police, who are paid to destroy the cannabis plantations. Legalizing marijuana will end this ‘war on drugs’ targeting our countrymen.
- Growth in GDP – Legalizing of Marijuana will lead to a rise in the growth of GDP. Imposing tax on selling of marijuana will anyway help in keeping a control over its production, and it would be a help to the Indian economy. Such Marijuana in Netherland contributes $3.2 billion with an annual gross.
- Prohibition is failed to curb the production of marijuana as states like Himachal Pradesh completely depend on the production of marijuana. They have no other source income except this. So why not legalize it, as legalizing marijuana will create job opportunities for many people.
- Legalizing will ensure that marijuana is distributed in good quality to consumers
Further as a suggestion, India should follow the laws of Netherlands that have decriminalized the personal usage of marijuana, and the outcome was an impressive result. The Dutch experience, alongside those of some alternative countries with minor policy changes, provides a moderately smart empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) won’t increase the prevalence of marijuana or the other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is so sturdy.
Well according to the study of international laws and their outcome, decriminalization of weed would be beneficial for India. It’s time to realize that the harder we push the more we drain our energy. We need to eradicate our fear that marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs. It’s not the first time when marijuana is being produced Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in our country it’s there since ancient period and use of bhang during festive seasons anyway make it tougher to curb its usage. Moreover, individuals have their discretion on bhang and other substance like alcohol and tobacco. Then why to put a ban on marijuana? Do our leaders think that we are immature or incompetent or are they hiding from their incompetence and lack of responsibility? Once the prohibition is premeditated the crime level escalates at an alarming rate. It’s discovered that one amongst the necessary actions of those drugs is to quiet and stupefy the individual, so there’s no tendency of violence, as isn’t the same in cases of alcoholic intoxication. Therefore, we can say that validation of marijuana can facilitate in the supervision of drug wars and other criminal activities.
Suggestions and Conclusion
Given below are a few of the recommendations for future regulation of laws if marijuana gets decriminalized –
- Central Government should fix an age for use recreational marijuana as 25 years is the legal age to consume alcohol, the same sort of thing should be done here also.
- Only licensed shop will be allowed to sell marijuana, and black-marketing should be penalized.
- State government should make it mandatory to provide a card to every purchaser according to the age fixed.
- The entry should be made on every purchase of weed by the seller.
- There should be a limit on purchasing of marijuana per person such as a grant of only 5 to 6 grams of marijuana per person.
Hence, we can conclude that legalizing marijuana will anyway save time and efforts of the government. If marijuana is provided in a limited quantity, it will help in lessening its consumption. Marijuana is comparatively less destructive than other serious drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, ayahuasca, etc. Studies also say that most of the time consumption of drugs leads to aggressive violence whereas marijuana works giving relief and calm to the senses. Other than legalizing marijuana will also lead to the growth of GDP in Indian Economy as it will be an aid to extra income for recently licensed distributors and sellers. It will help in generating tax revenues too. The rest depends on how the government wants to see the use marijuana in one’s life and the economy of the state.
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Ellgren, Maria; Spano, Sabrina M; Hurd, Yasmin L (2006) “Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Alters Opiate Intake and Opioid Limbic Neuronal Populations in Adult Rats” Neuropsychopharmacology 32 (3): 607–15
 Civil writ petition no. 844 of 2014
 State government has the power to grant a license for medical and scientific use of marijuana under sec. Ten read with sec. 8 of the NDPS Act 1985
 EMCDDA: National Report 2007: Netherlands
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 United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, 1957