In the year 2020, it became more important to address and discuss the issue of legalizing cannabis in India, after witnessing a number of cases against famous personalities and celebrities, especially from the entertainment industry for the consumption of marijuana.
According to a study conducted by AIIMS in 2019, more than 7 million people had consumed cannabis in India in one year. This article delves into the subject of legalization of cannabis in India, and what will be the benefits of doing the same and what criminalization of this is leading us to.
In India, Cannabis has been used for a very long time. Cannabis finds its mention in the Atharva Veda and is considered to be one of the five most sacred plants present on the Earth. It is also said that the leaves of this plant are the home for a guardian angel. Atharva Veda also refers to Cannabis as joy giver, liberator and a source of happiness.
According to Hindu mythology, it is also believed that Cannabis was the favourite food of Lord Shiva. It is said that Bhang, a product of Cannabis plant was used to cool down Lord Shiva after he drank all the poison that came out from Samudra Manthan, in order to protect everyone.
This believes were one of the main reasons why cannabis was legal and highly in use until the 1980s. But since the 1930s, the USA was putting pressure on India to criminalize the use of cannabis, and after battling with this for around 50 years, the NDPS Act was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985, which criminalized the consumption of cannabis. However, Bhang was not included in the NDPS Act, and the NDPS still allows the consumption of it as there is a tradition in India of consuming bhang during some of the festivals like Holi and Shiv-Ratri, and during this time bhang is also offered to Lord Shiva.
Medical Benefits of Cannabis
Cannabis is proved to be very effective in fighting certain types of cancers. It is also useful in the treatment of diseases like Glaucoma and Parkinson. Cannabis also regulates the insulin levels in the body and prevents its consumer from getting diabetic. CBD that is present in cannabis plant helps in maintaining the bone strength, lack of which is a major problem in old aged people in India, especially in females. It is also a cure for depression and anxiety, symptoms of which are very common in India.
Commercial Benefits of Legalization
Legalization of Cannabis has huge commercial and economical benefits. If the trade of cannabis is legalized, then the Government of India can put taxes on it which can even regulate the trade by making a provision that only the government shops can sell cannabis, as it is done in the case of bhang. This would create a government monopoly in the market over the products related to cannabis which would help in the generation of a large amount of revenue. Currently, this trade is regulated illegally, which means all the money related to this goes into the black market, giving birth to a situation of organized crime industry.
Legalization of growth of cannabis can also be a great relief to the farmers and could solve the agrarian issue to a great extent. In areas of Himachal Pradesh and some other states also, there is a good growth of cannabis and many families depends on it for their living. This process is illegal that is why these people are forced to sell their product to traders at a very cheap cost. Legalization of marijuana will help these people and they could sell their product in the market regulated by the government giving them the actual price and help them get the larger profits.
Legalization of marijuana will also generate employment as there will be new opportunities in this industry, as employees will be required for the cultivation process, packaging and distribution. Gradually with the growth of this trade and industry, this business will also attract potential investors which would lead to increased job opportunities in India.
Social Benefits of Legalization
Legalization of cannabis will have a huge economic impact which is easily visible, but this would also be beneficial for the society in some ways. Legalization will reduce crimes related to trade. Currently, there is a whole illegal industry that is dealing with marijuana, which indulges children at a large number giving rise to the practice of child labour. Legalization of marijuana trade will introduce laws regarding each and everything in this industry from cultivation to distribution, and by this, the government could keep a check easily on all the activities from buying to selling.
In India, a lot of teenagers use marijuana for recreational purposes. Therefore, by legalizing the use of marijuana the government can put an age limit for buying marijuana as it is done in the case of bhang and liquor. This will reduce the consumption of marijuana by an adolescent.
The government can also keep a check on the quality ensuring that the cannabis which is available for consumption is less harmful and more beneficial for the health. In some of the countries where marijuana is legalized recently, there is a rule according to which the extract of cannabis should contain CBD, which is beneficial for health in many ways, more than 10% and it should not contain THC, which is harmful, more than 0.5%.
In India, Cannabis is consumed in the form of Charas (resin), Ganja (flower), and bhang (leaves). Use of bhang is legal under NDPS Act, 1985 while the other two are criminalized. Some of the states have imposed different laws on the consumption of bhang as well, and 3 states – Mumbai, Assam and Gujarat have banned the usage of bhang in their respective states. However, Gujarat legalized the use of bhang in 2017, citing that it is associated with Lord Shiva.
The year 2015 witnessed the start of the Great Legalization Movement in India, as some efforts were seen towards re-legalization of cannabis. In 2016, a Lok Sabha MP supported the legalization of cannabis in India, and then in 2017, another important Indian leader, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi also favoured the legalization so that cannabis can be used for medical purposes.
Recently, in 2019, Delhi High Court agreed on hearing the petition that was filed by the Great Legalization Movement Trust, challenging the reasonability of the NDPS Act, 1985 on the grounds that the act is arbitrary and unscientific in nature.
Cannabis has been a part of Indian traditions, and its common usage is not hidden from the government as well. India criminalized the usage of marijuana because of foreign pressure especially from the USA, but now many western countries including the USA are in a process of legalizing the use of it and are taking steps for it. India should also re-consider the provisions of the NDPS Act and should join hands with countries like the USA and Canada in re-legalizing the use of marijuana.
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