What is the punishment for possession of marijuana?

December 22, 2017
possession of marijuana

Mage Source - https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/03/time-travel-allen-ginsberg-on-marijuana-tourism-1966/73168/

In this article, Sarthak Modi discusses the punishment for possession of marijuana.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. Different forms such as hashish, ganja, charas are banned and their possession is deemed to be unlawful.

According to section 2 (iii) of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 cannabis (hemp) means :

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world, with about 125 million people consuming it in one form or another every year. In India, the use of marijuana is historically linked to faith and mysticism. It is said that it is a drug that helps the user to get “ecstasy in the original sense of the word”. India is consuming charas (hash), bhang and weeds for centuries. However, the implementation of strict laws in 1986 made the sale, consumption, production, and transport of marijuana in the country illegal.

Cannabis cultivation in India

It is estimated that sixty thousand kg of hash and forty thousand kg of opium are produced in Himachal Pradesh. But only a small fraction of it is seized i.e. approximately five hundred kg annually. According to reports, there are currently more than sixteen hundred hectares of arable agricultural land and five hundred hectares of illegal public forests under cannabis cultivation.

Why is possession of Marijuana illegal?

After withstanding the United States’ pressure for twenty-five years, India finally gave into the demands of its Western counterpart in 1986 by clubbing marijuana with other hard drugs and criminalizing it.

Marijuana is included as a Class 1 drug. 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.

Punishment for possession of marijuana

Section 20 Of the NDPS Act, 1985 deals with the offenses related not only to the consumption but also cultivation, possession, use, sale/purchase, import/export, transportation and warehousing of cannabis, except for medical or scientific purposes.

The laws might vary from one State to another as each State has the power to control, permit and regulate these activities.

For instance, under Uttar Pradesh excise rules there’s a potential prison term of two years and payment of a fine if someone:

(a) Imports, exports, transport or possess any intoxicant other than charas.

(b) Cultivated any hemp plant (cannabis sativa).

(c) Collects or sells any portion of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa).

(d) Collects or sells any portion of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa) from which any intoxication drug can be manufactured.

In spite of a legally enforced ban, marijuana is still used in various forms by an ever-increasing consumer base. This is primarily because the plant grows unchecked in the wild in several states across the country.

View of NDPS Act on Bhang

Bhang does not fall within the definition of cannabis (hemp) as defined in section 2 (iii) of the NDPS Act, 1985. The act only prohibits the use of certain parts and preparations of the cannabis plant, namely hash resin created from the plant or its buds. The act provides for the use of the leaves of the plant, the precise element used in bhang.

This case has been discussed in detail in various judgments of different courts. In 2004, for example, a local court in the state of Haryana, ruled that “bhang does not fall under the definition of cannabis” in the law. Thus, its possession is not an offense that is punishable under the law.

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Therefore, the provisions for different narcotics and psychotropic drugs under the NDPS Act, 1985, do not apply to cannabis in bhang form. The National Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Policy acknowledges this fact and further states that ‘the production and sale of Bhang is allowed by many state governments.

Exemption in certain cases

Why has the authority not been able to impose the ban properly?

Cannabis consumption is inherent in the culture and the hilly terrain makes the area almost inaccessible to enforcement agencies, making it a safe haven for drug traffickers.

Medicinal use of Marijuana – Does Indian legal system comply with this provision?

It is a well-known fact that marijuana has several medicinal benefits. Studies have shown that marijuana use has dozens of medical benefits. It treats glaucoma, prevents cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, reduces anxiety, slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, improves metabolism and is even said to spur creativity in our brain. The NDPS Act allows the medical use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

View of other countries on possession of marijuana

While in most of the countries selling marijuana and consumption is illegal, Uruguay and several states in the USA have legalized the cultivation of cannabis for recreational or medical use in recent years.

The Netherlands has long pursued a policy where the police do not take any legal action against use and sale of Cannabis under certain strict conditions.

However, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibits countries to legitimize marijuana except for medicinal uses.


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