The case for cannabis legalization in India

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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. However, implementation of stringent narcotic laws in 1986 made the sale, consumption, production and transportation of marijuana illegal in the country.[i]

Here are some convincing reasons why cannabis should be legalised in India:

Prohibition doesn’t stop its usage

The international prohibition of cannabis has failed in every country that has attempted to implement it. Instead of stopping drug use, cannabis prohibition has fuelled violence and criminality, increased health harms, and cost society an exorbitant and immeasurable sum of money.[ii]

India is no exception to the observation. Drug abuse has created havoc in parts of Punjab, Haryana and North-East India. A similar situation was faced by Portugal at the start of this century. Portugal was ransacked by a drug abuse problem. In 2001, it decriminalised all the illegal drugs. This was highly criticised world over. However, it now has one of the lowest drug-induced mortality rates in Europe. [iii]

Legalisation doesn’t mean that the possession of marijuana will be limitless. Countries such as Portugal, Uruguay or Netherlands which allow the use of cannabis for recreational purposes have certain restrictions which marijuana users have to follow. For example: In Netherlands, an individual can grow 4 plants of marijuana for personal use. In Portugal, there is maximum limit beyond which the possession of cannabis becomes illegal.

Further, when compared to tobacco and alcohol, the types of intoxication legalised and taxed in India, cannabis is safer to use. Studies suggest that one in 10 regular cannabis users become dependent on the drug.[iv] It is far lower than dependency rates of tobacco and alcohol. Further, smoking cannabis is better for lung health over smoking tobacco. [v]

 Medicinal purposes

Certain strands of Marijuana have the potential to treat various illness. It can be used to treat a number of medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy, insomnia, HIV/AIDS treatment, cancer. Cannabis also has therapeutic and anti-inflammatory properties, it is an antioxidant, anti-bacterial, produces lipids, offers UV protection. The use of a cannabis-based product can help in cell regeneration, protect from UV rays, heal skin conditions like dry skin, treat acne, and regulate oil production by the sebaceous gland. [vi]

While many countries debate legalising the use of marijuana for medical use, 30 countries around the world has accepted the use of Marijuana for medical purpose to some extent. [vii]

Some countries where cannabis for medical use is legalised:

Sri Lanka





India has mostly remained aloof to these developments.

But things might start to change. Just at the start of this month, India’s first medical cannabis clinic was established in Koramangala, Bangalore. [viii]

Economic benefit

Like tobacco and alcohol, cannabis has huge revenue potential. In Netherlands, Marijuana contributes $3.2 billion to the GDP. American states like California, Washington and Colorado, where weed has been legalized both for medicinal and recreation purposes has reaped economic benefit.[ix] Further states like Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and North East India are highly dependent on Cannabis as a source of revenue. [x] Legalising marijuana will also give rise to many different industries. Drug industries, vaporizer industries, and many others would emerge resulting in creation of jobs.

Our country has been quick to disregard legalising marijuana on the basis of moral grounds. But if one were to look at the experiences of other countries, they will realise that legalising marijuana has certain benefits. These benefits need to be discussed and India’s present stance of marijuana must be revisited and revaluated.











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