Updated: Oct 29, 2019
In recent times, the legalization of marijuana has been the subject of debate all over the world. Pretty recently Seedo, an Israel-based firm said that Delhi and Mumbai are among the highest consumers of weed in the world. In fact the study said that they are actually some of the cheapest cities in the world to get high. Even in our neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and even North Korea, the rules around marijuana consumption are not that strict. But in India, the scene is entirely different. The question is why? Here is a brief history of why and how marijuana was banned in India.
India had no legislation regarding narcotics until 1985 but India had a more pragmatic approach since its colonial days: its restrictions were focused on harder substances like opium. The Indian hemp drug commission appointed in 1893, far from finding it addictive, hailed cannabis for the "mild euphoria" and "pleasant relaxation" caused by it. In deference to the scale of traditional consumption in India, the 1961 treaty also gave it a reprieve of 25 years to clamp down on recreational drugs derived from the tops.
For 25 years since 1961, India has been battling American pressure to keep Marijuana legal. Since then, US had been campaigning global law against all drugs, both hard and soft following the adoption of the ‘Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs. However, India opposed the move, and withstood American pressure to make cannabis illegal for nearly 25 years. But by the early ‘80s, American society was struggling with some drug problems and opinion had grown against the ‘excesses’ of the hippie generation. Therefore, in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi government succumbed and enacted the NDPS Act, banning all narcotic drugs in India and enacted it in. This put traditional bhang and ganja on the same level as smack, brown sugar etc. However, it is necessary to understand that this Act has evolved over the years, and has been amended thrice (1988, 2001 and 2014) which has changed its scope and direction.
The minimum punishment for violation of the NDPS Act was 10 years of jail (it has since been relaxed and the crackdown on marijuana has eased somewhat). Besides, NDPS specified that cannabis meant charas (the resin extracted from the plant), ganja (the flowering or fruiting tops of the plant) and any mixture or drink prepared from either of the two permitted forms of marijuana. Thus, NDPS allows people to smoke pot or drink bhang so long as they can prove that they had consumed only the leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world with an estimated 125 million people consuming it in some form or the other every year. In India, marijuana use has been historically bound to faith and mysticism. It is said to be a drug that helps the user attain "ecstasy in the original sense of the word"
India has consumed and celebrated charas (hash), bhang and weed for centuries. The cannabis plant serves a thousand purposes and is a remarkably renewable resource (it literally grows like a weed). This global shift towards legalization is long overdue, and offers
hope that we can yet reverse the absurd suppression and violent defamation this sacred plant has suffered in the last century.
Even the Atharva Veda says one of the five most sacred plants is Cannabis Sativa. It says the cannabis is a source of happiness, is a joy giver and a liberator. It was the backbone of Indian ayurvedic industry and was also known as the penicillin of ayurvedic medicine. However, it is only ever recommended in miniscule doses, and always in combination with other more sattvic herbs to balance the tamasic effects of cannabis.
However, implementation of stringent narcotic laws in 1986 made the sale, consumption, production and transportation of marijuana illegal in the country. Many supporters of hemp argue why the act is still prevalent (or not amended), especially after we now know of its many science backed benefits today. Marijuana is proven to be useful as a less expensive cancer treating drug, has depression reducing and pain killing properties along with being a lot less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
As always in India, once a ban is put in place, it stays in place. There is no rolling back, even as the countries originally responsible for these bans evolve, revoke and move forward. One of the most prominent reasons for not uplifting the ban allegedly is the amount of revenue earned by the govt. via letting the liquor and tobacco companies run their business in our country. This cartel exercises its influence to not let a safer and cheaper competition enter the market for they are bound to lose. In addition, government tax on weed is bound to generate nominal revenue as it is way cheaper than alcohol.
However, the push for making cannabis legal in the country is gaining momentum quickly. Taking inspiration from the West, in 2017, India’s women and child development minister, Maneka Gandhi, has voiced her support for legalising marijuana in the country. She suggested that legalising the drug for medicinal purposes could be beneficial in India.
Take a look on this debate below.
This isn’t the first time that a politician in the country has voiced support for legalising marijuana. In 2015, Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, a Member of Parliament from Patiala, had petitioned to legalise the possession as well as consumption of marijuana in India along with that of other ‘non-synthetic’ intoxicants. And much before that, in 2015, senior parliamentarian Tathagata Satpathy, too, sought a change in the law, calling the ban on cannabis “elitist”.
Those who had earlier doubted Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev's intentions about promoting good health, seem to have had a miraculous change of heart. Patanjali also intensifies studies on the plant’s medicinal and industrial properties. “In Ayurveda, since ancient times, parts of cannabis (hemp), for instance, have been used for medicinal purposes. So, we are looking at various formulations. We should ponder over the benefits and positive uses of the cannabis plant,” chief executive Balkrishna told Quartz.
We live in an era full of scams and conspiracies, nobody is sure of what to believe. Good is subjective and people voice their opinions on every possible thing. Ram Mandir is a big issue but not in a way that political parties put. Political parties pay less importance to matters relating to faith and religion, but the Ram Mandir continues to be critical to the seers and the Hindu society. There are many several issues other than Ayodhya dispute which somehow keeps dragging in social media as they directly or indirectly relate to voter’s emotion. The fact that we continue to debate on these issues endlessly, and yet never seem to agree, suggests that there is something in ideologies far beyond rationality. This other thing is subjective taste,
which, to a large extent, is shaped by our emotional being. Watch the video to learn more
Politicians are much more rational than us voters. They are governed primarily by their instinct for political survival. Our need for them to follow an ideology means that they will obey it to appease us. They even believe in their ideology to convince us that they will do so. Political parties in states like Punjab, UP, Kerala release various promises for their state farmers because farmers are a huge vote bank for them. Sometimes such a smart decision is liberal; at other times, conservative. We don’t need them to impose their subjective moral sentiments on us or to use policies as a means of emotional expression. Our hemp community itself is a huge vote bank for political parties so we have no other option than to protest for it so that they should consider legalising cannabis. We are trying our best that the authorities should listen to our demands here itself.
But this is precisely against the public’s interests. There can be no ideology that is superior on all issues and in all circumstances, except for the ideology of choosing the best policy for each issue separately and independently of political orientation. We need our politicians to make smart decisions that are aligned with the public interest.
Cannabis has been in our culture for centuries. We were forced to illegalize weed by the western countries. Now they itself realizing their mistakes is in the path of legalization. The United States, where cannabis is legal in some states, already has a burgeoning $8 billion cannabis economy. In Canada, where medicinal marijuana is legal, cannabis sale account for as much as 0.2 per cent of the GDP.
Instead of spending money on arresting drug offenders and cutting down marijuana plantations, why can't our government save itself from all this trouble and legalize a culturally accepted substance that can help in socio-economic development of the country? Should we wait again for the western world to force us for something. Can't our government just take own decision and just legalize it. Isn't promoting Indian culture and tradition, the main motto of the government? Shouldn't they take necessary steps for legalising cannabis which has been truly a part of our culture. Most of us have little idea about how much our feelings shape our politics. By understanding our craving for ideology maybe one day we can dispense with it. Weed has had a bad reputation, but does this need to change? We leave this to you. - Himalayan Hemp