Need For Weed: Why India Should Legalise Medical Marijuana

Posted on May 14, 2015 in Health and Life

By Lamya Ibrahim:

What do Marijuana and our Prime Minister have in common? Both can be exaggerated to the extent of being touted as saviors of the human race itself, or be disparaged as one of the worst occurrences of our lifetime – neither being accurate – and it is rare to run into someone whose opinion is more neutral. With popularity and controversy surrounding the drug running at an, forgive the pun, all time high, a balanced discussion on the topic is long overdue.

Photo Credit: Carlos Gracia/Flickr

That led to India’s first-ever conference for the legalization of cannabis in Bangalore on May 10th, organized by 23-year old musician Viki Vaurora, with subsequent editions coming up in Pune, Mumbai and Delhi. Limited to 200 people consisting exclusively of doctors, media personnel and (senior) students, the event concentrated on medical marijuana’s benefits and advocated open research into its potential in the management of cancer and other ailments. Canadian caregiver Rick Simpson, who has treated cancer patients with non-psychoactive Cannabidiol oil for 12 years, also noted India’s long tryst with the drug.

Marijuana can actually help people who have particular diseases to feel better and help to keep on with their days, that’s why some people think there should be online medical marijuana dispensary for this kind of people, so is easier for them to access to it.

Cannabis or hemp, landed in India via China between 2000 and 1000 B.C. It soon became widely used and celebrated as one of “five kingdoms of herbs … which release us from anxiety” according to ancient Vedic poems. Different parts of the plant were used, all containing a chemical compound ‘delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’ (THC) that acts on naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in our brain, giving its users a ‘high’. ‘Weed’ consumption was legal in India till the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was passed in 1985, yielding to 25 years’ of pressure from the US Government. As a newly-categorized schedule I drug (i.e., it has a high potential for abuse and no legitimate therapeutic uses), not only its use, but any further research into its medical value, got restricted. With more than 20 states in the US now legalizing its recreational use, plus ongoing research in Israel and Netherlands, activists insist on India needs to keep up with the times.

While laws calling for up to 10 years imprisonment aren’t strictly followed in India’s otherwise ‘punctual’ judicial system, as most consumers escape punishment by paying a ‘fine’, flourishing misconceptions make it such a social disgrace, we haven’t even tapped into its potential for being an excellent source of fibre and fuel. Myths against the plant include it being a ‘gateway drug’ – a mere correlation than scientific fact – or that it turns people into zombies – it does not, while proponents claim it is side effects and addiction free, despite 10-15 % of consumers being at risk of developing mild dependence; recent studies imply chronic use from teenage as a factor for dependence. In fact, data demonstrate that following legalization of Cannabis in US states, consumption rates among teens actually dropped.

The problem with making it illegal is that it leads to a thriving black market and hampers the distribution of correct information. Regulations, like those existing for alcohol, are a must, but putting an overstated blanket statement pushes people into the opposite extreme, risking adulteration with stronger, or low-quality substances. It’s like telling 16-year-olds to go to bed early or the monsters under the bed would get them – it doesn’t work that way with adolescents or adults. They need hard facts, the pros and cons, and the freedom to make their own decisions, as it is with food, exercise and other health-related issues. Meanwhile, a wealth of information remains unexplored, as a low maintenance, multi-purpose herb literally goes up in smoke.