(Representative Pic) – Man using hasish. |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- According to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, charas, ganja, hash oil etc are banned substances.
- The use of marijuana in India has been documented from centuries.
- The medicinal use of marijuana has proved to be useful in many cases as proved around the world.
New Delhi: Weed, marijuana and ganja are some of the names that are often used while referring to banned drug – cannabis. The latest mention of the drug in the developments pertaining to the Sushant Singh Rajput death case added momentum to the motion that argues the ‘merits’ of legalising the drug.
Laws in India pertaining to marijuana
Also referred to as Mary Jane, pot or ganja, the contraband was classified as a ‘hard drug’ by the international treaty of Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND) in 1961. According to the definition of the treaty, “Cannabis means the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted, by whatever name they may be designated.”
While ganja was clearly put under the umbrella of hard drugs, bhang was left out. It is used widely and sold in government-licensed shops in several states.
Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, cannabis is- charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish; ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom.
NDPS banned the production and sale of marijuana but did not criminalise the use of leaves and seeds of cannabis. As per the Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1985 the sale, purchase, possession and use of marijuana, as well as bhang, is illegal in the state.
Under Section 66(1)(b) of the Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949, the manufacturing, possession and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances has been criminalised in Maharashtra. On February 21, 2017, bhang was legalised in Gujarat from the list of “intoxicating drugs”.
Section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985, lists the offences involved with the sale purchase, consumption and transportation of ganja.
- Under Section 20, a fine of up to Rs 1,00,000 and rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years might be levied on any one who is found cultivating the contraband.
- For possession of small quantities (100 grams for charas and hashish, 1000 grams for ganja), there is a penalty of Rs 10,000 or a jail term of 6 months to 1 year.
- If someone is caught with commercial quantities (1 kg for charas and hashish, 20 kgs of ganja), the court can award imprisonment for up to 20 years and levy a fine of Rs 2 lakh on the person.
- Courts can also penalise a regular offender and sentence him to a 30-year imprisonment term. It is also not compulsory to give away a mandatory death sentence for repeated convictions in cases of trafficking large quantities of drugs.
- Section 25 states that if a person knowingly allows his/her premises to be used for committing an offense mentioned in the NDPS Act, 1985 he will be deemed to the same punishment as under Section 20 and Section 28.
Time to discuss legalisation?
Marijuana is not an alien plant to India and culturally, the sight of a holy man blowing puffs of marijuana smoke from his chillum is a common one. Moreover, the usage of bhang is legal in many parts of the country for its social permeation. India branded cannabis as a ‘hard drug’ by adopting the international treaty of Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND) in 1961. Prior to it, the cannabis plant was not deemed illegal.
Subsequently, the roll out the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, was the final nail in the coffin for the demonization of marijuana. During that period, there were reports that India also enforced the ban owing to the campaign spearheaded by the then US president Ronald Reagan.
It is to be noted that marijuana is a ‘drug’ and there should be a balanced debate about its negative effects on the body and surely, it can have a lasting impact on an impressionable mind, just like tobacco or alcohol.
However, the latter two are not banned or demonised while marijuana still holds a sinister image in the minds of many citizens. The issue needs to be also looked at via the prism of extensive scientific research, not just on the plant but also the psyche of the user as well as its impact on the body. The medicinal use of marijuana is well known and used to ease the pain of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
It is only through constructive debate and scientific temper that we can address the fact that marijuana has been used in India since ancient times and will be used in the future as well.