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“Criminalisation Of Marijuana Is A Remnant Of Older Times And An Orthodox Mind”

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The cannabis plant, which goes by names like pot, weed, dope, etc., has been in constant controversies since the 1960s and thus, has been a favourite product for notorious drug kingpins and people alike.

A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the United States indicates that out of all the people who smoke weed or consume cannabis in other ways, 30% are highly likely to be addicted to the same.

Cannabis has been and is being used by more than 35 million people around the world in various forms like marijuana, hashish, bhang, etc. A paramount reason for cannabis’ popularity is its organic nature and low production cost as compared to other psychedelic drugs.

Weed, as it is known popularly, has been popular in eastern civilisations like India and China wherein the latter has it mentioned in its ancient scriptures like the Vedas since 1500 BC.

Certain scriptures, as early as 2700 BC, mention cannabis as a medicine. But in the west, it is a fairly new concept. When the 1960s were nearing their end, western nations saw the abuse of cannabis, like hashish and marijuana, rise dramatically.

Hence, they forcefully banned them via three main conventions namely; the ‘1972 Protocol on Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs’, the ‘Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971’ and the ‘UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988’.

Thus, many cannabis activists from across the world accused large pharmaceutical companies of forcing this ban as the growth in the use of cannabis sale of many pain-killing medicines had dropped.

Another thing that was argued was the listing of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug along with synthetic drugs like cocaine and heroin, which is a class of drugs that has no medical values whatsoever. They are extremely lethal and are synthetic in nature.

All this, even when there is enough scientific proof to show that cannabis is 100% natural (which is pretty easy to understand if, in my opinion, the UN used a bit of common sense!) and has vast medical uses ranging from the cure of epilepsy to even cancer.

India Has Had Support For Marijuana Since Ancient Times

Coming to India, many cannabis activists, mainly from the ‘Great Legalisation Movement’ or GLM, also advocate the medicinal and the recreational use of cannabis by arguing that the Indian culture, for a long time, used cannabis freely and that cannabis’ use is mentioned in the Atharvaveda along with the Ayurveda.

But this is just one side of the story. If we come to the facts, as per my observation, even on YouTube, a very biased cannabis reporting happens.

In my opinion, cannabis has a very sacred place in our culture. Yes, it is mentioned even in the Vedas but there is a catch. Well, in the Atharvaveda, the mention of cannabis is as an offering to the gods (The holy nectar of the gods) and as a holy plant, which is a part of King Soma’s kingdom and is worshipped by humans.

Whereas in Ayurveda, cannabis is an active ingredient in many medicines, ranging from blood pressure to digestion, except it is classified in the ‘Upa Visha’ or the sub-poisonous category, in addition to being mentioned as toxic, if used for recreational purposes.

Ayurveda also says that prolonged use of cannabis can dry up the body and hence create an imbalance in the three physiological forces of our body (whom Ayurveda recognises as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha).

This perspicuously establishes that the advocating arguments given towards the recreational uses of cannabis-based on cultural factors are rather unsubstantiated. Now, many organic drugs are used as medicines and in turn are very effective, like morphine and Ayahuasca, but still are toxic and deadly if abused.

Furthermore, a very valid argument given by activists towards the legalisation of cannabis is the prevalence of black-marketing in this field, and that legalisation would automatically reduce this.

Besides this, the regulatory mechanism of the legalisation process world also stop the abuse of the same by minors.

Does Legalisation Reduce The Risk Of Abuse?

If we take up the case of the state of Colorado in the United States, which legalised the recreational and medicinal usage of Cannabis in 2004, we see that this legalisation caused a steep increase in the consumption of the same by minors.

In addition to this, 22% of all the expulsions in the Colorado Public Schools were either due to the possession or the use of Cannabis by the students. The state of Colorado also saw that organised crime related to black marketing of cannabis and its related products almost tripled after the legalisation.

Therefore, in a nation like India, where even medical drugs, like Codeine based cough syrups, are abused, it will be an uphill task for the government to regulate the use of weed.

Additionally, India is already in a dire situation due to extensive abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, and tobacco which together kill over 50 lakh people. Even though many activists claim that cannabis is not addictive, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the United States indicates otherwise.

It tells us that out of all the people who smoke weed or consume cannabis in other ways, 30% are highly likely to have some sort of marijuana use disorder. Besides the medical and the recreational uses of cannabis, it is also widely used in the textile industry as Hemp;  the industrial value of which is estimated to be around 9-13 billion USD by the year 2026 (as given by the Forbes magazine).

This is another compelling reason for the legalisation of cannabis as the Hemp industry could be very profitable and suitable for India.

The Indian government, through the ‘Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985’, banned the cultivation and consumption of cannabis except that of bhang (due to its cultural and religious importance), but the regulation of the same was left on individual states.

States like Uttarakhand have legalised the cultivation of cannabis in India, and Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are considering the same.

Navigating Through The Tussle Between Legalisation And Banning

“Cannabis has been sacred in Indian culture and is greatly respected here.”

According to me, India now has five ways to deal with cannabis.

  • First, is to decriminalise cannabis but forbid commercialisation. Now, this alternative would greatly help the medical industry but would severely affect the pharmaceutical industry as they won’t be able to mass-produce cannabis-based medicines. In addition to this, it would also refrain India from developing a domestic Hemp Industry.
  • Second, is to liberalise cannabis policies while placing enough regulations for protecting children and teenagers from using and abusing the same.
  • Third, is to legalise cannabis in a regulated manner, so that pharmaceutical companies are not able to commodify the plant and thus make it an out-of-reach product for common people.
  • Fourth, is to legalise cannabis for medical and textile purposes, while banning recreational uses.
  • The fifth is to let things be the same and not change anything.

Expressing his views on the matter, Prabhanu K. Das, a student at Kamla Nehru College, says, “So, the reason given to banning gaanja and charas is that they are addictive, but a lot of studies have shown that it is not an addictive drug. Delhi alone is the 32nd biggest consumer of cannabis products, so one can think the potential in revenue generation if it were to be legalised. Besides, I think that the criminalisation of marijuana is a remnant of older times and an orthodox mind. Thus, with all the evidence that we have, I think that it should be legal.”

A student from Zakir Hussain College, who doesn’t want his name to be mentioned, expresses, “Cannabis has been sacred in the Indian culture and is greatly respected here. It now time to do away with the taboo it has been associated with and accept it with our open hands. Ab India mein Gaanja udega! (Now, Marijuana shall fly in India!)”. I did try to contact experts from the Great Legalisation Movement, but I didn’t receive any response from them.

Cannabis is a super crop, which would not only help people but also nature (as it produces the most amount of biomass per acre) if used carefully. Yet, as all good things come with a price to be paid, cannabis comes with the danger of abuse.

Hence, it becomes our responsibility to either be responsible for cannabis’ use or let it prosper in the black markets of India. By doing so, we will allow it to continue being a taboo in our nation, making it an arduous for India to embrace cannabis like it used to.

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  1. India's Cannabis Market: Examining Regulatory Frameworks Then & Now | stonejack

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