Before, we dive into whether cannabis is a boon or bane for the Indian society, let us first learn what cannabis is actually. Cannabis is referred to a group of three plants that contains psychoactive characteristics, known as Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis. Once the flower of these plants are harvested, we are left with one of the most commonly found drugs in the world. People generally call it marijuana, weed or pot. In India, it’s commonly known and termed as ‘Ganja’.
Cannabis is made up of well over 100 components which are termed as cannabinoids. Research is still being done on what each cannabinoids does, but we have a knowledge of two main components, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD, even though is psychoactive cannabinoid is still non-intoxicating. It has some medicinal uses such as reduction of migraine, seizures and anxiety and even easing pain. THC, is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. The latter is responsible for making people experience the feeling of ‘High’.
Countries where Cannabis is Legal
While there are countries where usage and sale of marijuana is strictly prohibited and criminalized, there are countries which have opened their arms for cannabis usage for medical or recreational purposes.
In 2013, Uruguay is one of the first countries in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. A person could only buy them from registered pharmacies.
In Canada, people are legally allowed to possess upto 30 grams of marijuana of either dried or non-dried form publicly. However, the user must be 18 or above and can only buy from federally-licensed shops.
Even though the consumption of marijuana along with its cultivation and sale is still illegal but in 2009, personal use of recreational marijuana 5 grams or less with TCH content less than 1% was decriminalised.
The United States
The recreational use of marijuana in the United States is legalised in 17 states,, the district of Columbia with 13 States and the U. S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized it’s use.
Other countries who have legalised the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes are Spain, Italy, Colombia, Jamaica, etc.
History of Indian Cannabis
Usage of cannabis in India can be dated as early as 2000 BCE. In India, cannabis is prepared in 3 common terms which are charas (resin), ganja (flower) and the most common bhang (seeds and leaves). The most common form of usage of cannabis is found in Bhang Thandai and Lassi.
Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese botanist and doctor wrote a report in 1534 on uses of cannabis in India. In his report ‘Colloquiues on the Simples and Drugs and Medical Matters of India and of a Few Fruits’ he stated that bhang in India was used to improve work and appetite and enable labour and also noted that it was so commonly used by an enormous number of people that there was no mystery about it.
In 1798, the British Government enacted a tax on ganja, charas and bhang. The British Government also did a wide ranging study of cannabis in India and completed the report in 1894.
Several attempts were made to criminalise cannabis in British India only to be mooted in 1838, 1871 and again in 1877.
In 2019, All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) conducted a study and stated that about 7 million people across India had consumed cannabis within the last one year. Another study done in 2018 by the German data firm ABCD found that New Delhi and Mumbai with the consumption of 38.2 tonnes and 32.4 tonnes were the third and sixth largest cannabis consuming cities in the entire world.
Reason of Cannabis Ban in India and its current legal status
In 1961, the international treaty ‘Single Convention on Narcotic Drums’ classed cannabis with hard drugs. During the negotiations, the delegation from India opposed the treaty’s intolerance to the religious and social customs of India. As a middle ground, the Government of India promised a limit on exporting of Indian hemp. The treaty was signed for 25 years.
As a result, Bhang, which is prepared from leaves was left out from the elucidation of ‘cannabis’.
Towards the end of this exclusion period of 25 years, in 1985, the Government of India passes the ‘Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.’ The act maintained the same definition of cannabis as of treaty of 1961, thus excluding “Bhang” again.
1949, the state of Maharashtra banned the manufacture, possession and consumption of bhang and bhang-infused substances without a license.
In 1958, the state of Assam prohibited the sale, possession and consumption of bhang and ganja.
On 21 February 2017, the state of Gujarat legalised bhang by removing it from section 23 of the Gujrat Prohibition Act’s list of “intoxicating drugs”.
Kasol- An exception from the NDPS Act?
Selling or consumption any illegal drugs in a punishable crime anywhere in India, and thus Kasol is no exception. But, mostly everyone has heard the name of Kasol, Kullu district in state of Himachal Pradesh as a place of drugs, rave parties and foreign advent. The place is so filled with foreigners due to which sometimes, Kasol is also called ‘Mini-Israel’.
In Himachal Pradesh, locals are associated with cannabis as they used it for making fibers, but due to it’s scenic beauty and abundance of cannabis at low costs it attracted foreigners, who brought drugs. Even with cannabis being illegal, the help of local public and administrative support the place has converted into a drug hub.
Possible profits after Cannabis Legalisation in India
In India, where consumption, production and sale of cannabis in any form is illegal, will the legalisation be any boon to the Indian Society?
CBD, a component in cannabis has ample amount of medical benefits. In medical industry, cannabis can be used to treat amnesia, glaucoma, anxiety and PTSD.
Our country has the perfect weather needed for the growth of weed. Indian hash named ‘Malana Cream’ is one of the most famous hash and illegally imported hash in the world. If legalised, India can cope and flourish in the market of legal marijuana globally. This will not only benefit the economic section but having legal cultivation and dispensaries will open employment gates.
In India because of criminalisation of cannabis we see a lot of crimes related to production and business of cannabis.The state of Washington in the United States saw the number of low level court filings drop by 98% since the legalisation in 2013.
Is Cannabis Safe? The Health Risks of Smoking Cannabis
Research has shown even though smoking marijuana or cannabis will give you a great sensation of high but, has both short and long term effects. Dry mouth, Bloodshot eyes, fast heart rate, showed coordination etc are some of the short term effect one might feel.
The effect of marijuana has a distressing long terms effect, with highly increased risk of heart failure, depression, suicidal thoughts and even schizophrenia.
The marijuana also has sociological effects like lack of concentration towards career due to addiction, antisocial behavior among youth and loss and harm in financial point of view.
Will the legalisation of cannabis bring boon or bane to the Indian Society?
Cannabis law with a standardised system for its cultivation, production and selling can be termed as boon of India. Even with all the advancement we have done in medicinal and sociological terms, boon or bane will always remain in the hands of people of that particular society.
If the Indian Government legalises the production and selling of Cannabis, they can generate revenue in billions through the tax revenue. Cigarettes across India in the financial year of 2019 was alone approximately 348 billion Indian Rupees.
The Privileged or the rich section of Indian society thinks that the Government should legalise cannabis but, when we think from the perspective of people living below poverty line or rural areas of India where money is the biggest factor of their shortcomings, legalisation of cannabis will increase the risk of drug abuse, crime rates and health problems.
Let’s see how the Government of India will be able to evade the decision of legalising cannabis in India in the near future, as there has been quite the movement around the topic in recent times.
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