There has been a sea change concerning the global attitude towards cannabis. Its use has been legalized in many countries across the world. But, India is completely out of this global trend, as the use of cannabis—both medical and recreational—remains illegal in the country.
Universally, these bans have been abolished as nations have realized two things:
First, bans didn’t work over many decades. Since cannabis is easy to grow and process, prohibition only drives to the creation of a large criminal industry that smuggled and distributed the drug, with police forces, customs services, etc. being corrupted into the bargain and large numbers of people being sent to prison for personal use.
Second, cannabis has enormous medical use. People have used marijuana, or cannabis, to treat their ailments for at least 3,000 years. It is used to alleviate nausea and pain in cancer victims and amputees, for instance, and is also among the least harmful of recreational drugs.
Laws against cannabis
As per UNODC reports in 2000, the use of cannabis in India was 3.2%. However, in 2019, a study conducted by the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences showed that about 7.2 million Indians had consumed cannabis within the past years.
As per the 2018 report by The United Nations-backed International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), India is one of the major hubs for the illicit drug trade. To tackle the problem of illegal drugs the Indian government passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. This Act prohibits a person to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. Althoughthe cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes such as making industrial hemp or for horticultural use is legal in India. The government further encourages research and cultivation of Cannabis with low THC.
The industrial use or the use of "bhang" during Holi celebrations, there is a massive black market that exists in India. It operates only in cash, but if brought under the purview of the organized system, it could generate crores in revenues. So, it becomes vital on the part of the state government as well as the Centre to regularize the production in a monitored and precise manner.However, excessive misuse by locals and tourists and illegal cultivation of cannabis need to be checked before any such move is implemented.
Studies across the world show that cannabis 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.
It is now medically proven that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. However, by making it illegal, more problems have come up. In cities like Delhi, for instance, smack addiction grew. Most colleges in India have a significant number of students who have smoked or seen someone else smoke pot/weed/grass. True, it should be kept away from the adolescents, but its moderate use will not pose any risk to adults.
How legalization will help Indians?
Legalizing cannabis has been for long a debated subject in India. Those who support legalization argue that the plant can be used in several medicines, including for the treatment of cancer. They also believe that legalizing the cultivation will bring some much needed financial support to the farmers.
Legalization has been a win-win for both the industry and the economy. As legal entry to cannabis has increased, additional crime affiliated with the trade has fallen. Growers and distributors have become taxpayers. Bioscience research into the plant’s medical uses has increased.
Secondary and tertiary employment has been developed by marketing and branding of both recreational and medical cannabis, complete with the sale of accessories. Cannabis production has provided a large new revenue stream, including export earnings.
Baba Ramdev's Patanjali has successfully entered numerous segments and could be the first indigenous company to realize the investment potentials in cannabis. It spoke about legalizing the plant last year and is reportedly carrying out industrial and medicinal research.
In April 2017, the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued a license Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR – IIIM) along with cannabis startup Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) to grow marijuana. Boheco is focused on establishing a scale-centric approach towards industrial hemp-based products and raw material as well as cannabis-based medicines. The company seeks the revision of policies to use the industrial variety of cannabis called hemp.
Cannabis 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, cannabis 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".
Status across various states of India
NDPS allows the consumption of bhang, however, various states have own laws banning or restricting its use. India already has unauthorized geographical indicator trademarks for ganja and charas. Some particular districts in states like Kerala, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh for instance, are famous all over the world for the quality of the local produce. Much like Darjeeling Tea or champagne, cannabis from Manali, Malana, Manikaran, and Idukki are names to conjure with, universally. Officially locking in branding with regional indicators could give India a big edge. Medical and bioscience research expertise also exists to develop new medical prescription drugs.
In states like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow, and marijuana is the only source of income for many locals. Himachal Pradesh legalizing the cultivation of marijuana could mean a new chapter for Indian states and cultivators. However, excessive misuse by locals and tourists and illegal cultivation needs to be checked before any such move is implemented.
Even the Madhya Pradesh government has decided to legalize the cultivation of cannabis in the state for medical and industrial purposes. Madhya Pradesh’s Law Minister P.C. Sharma told reporters in Bhopal that Chief Minister Kamal Nath-led government will allow the farming of hemp - a type of marijuana - which will be used for medical purposes like in the treatment of cancer. Sharma added that the cultivated hemp will not be used for consumption or trading, and said the agricultural project will need international help.
Check the visuals of P.C. Sharma below
Alkangiri district of Odisha, near Paderu, is also in the big league of cannabis plant production. The Andhra-Odisha border belt is the prime source of raw material for India’s illegal cannabis market. The Paderu belt supplies dried cannabis, also narcotic variant hashish or charas, to a large number of states: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Haryana.
Two varieties of marijuana are most common in Tamil Nadu and south India, namely Cannabis indica (broadleaf) and Cannabis sativa (longleaf). Recent arrests in Karur district for the cultivation of cannabis in fields was cause for much concern and some amusement. Officials say this case is an outlier as Tamil Nadu does not produce much marijuana, but admit the State’s residents are huge consumers of the drug, which is grown in other states.
Legalizing this culturally accepted substance can help in the socio-economic development of the country. It will help eliminate illegal trade and crimes associated with it and will also help in creating job opportunities.
Legalization will ensure that good quality marijuana is sold to consumers. In India, dealers often mix hash and weed with chemicals or other drugs like afeem to improve the taste, color, texture or 'high' of the stuff.
Legalization will improve the quality of marijuana sold to the users because the government will regulate the production and sale of the drug. By legalizing and taxing marijuana, the government will stand to earn huge amounts of revenue that will otherwise go to the Italian and Israeli drug cartels.
Only national legalization can help India in booming its cannabis industry. Instead of spending money on arresting drug offenders and cutting down marijuana plantations, our government should think about legalizing cannabis in every state. Thus it is no surprise that the country may slowly be waking up to the pharmaceutical abilities of the plant as well its ability to produce materials like hemp.
Read our previous blogs to find out more about the legal prohibitions that prevent the cultivation and uses of the plant for industrial and medical purposes.
We at Himalayan Hemp are working to educate the public on every level, while at the same time, avoiding the temptation of greed and misinterpretation. Have a look around our website to become a part of the Indian hemp revolution.