Cannabis, or marijuana, has been a source of socio-religious enjoyment to Indians since 2000BCE. In India, it’s called Ganja (weed), Charas (hashish), and Bhang. Everything was legal in India till 1985. The usage of cannabis has also been mentioned in Indian texts like Vedas and is deeply rooted in Indian culture. Devotees of Lord Shiva consumed cannabis in the form of bhang on the festival days, considering it a sacred and respectful drink. Even in medieval times, Indian Muslims used it as medicine. In 1893, the Britishers asked the Government of India to appoint a commission to further research the cultivation and impact of cannabis on the health of Indians as it was sold legally in India for medicinal and recreational purposes. The findings by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report concluded under its 6 volumes of data that prohibition of cannabis is not only difficult due to its widespread consumption but also unjustifiable as it has religious importance. The report was made public in 1894. The report did not find any major link between the criminals and cannabis but they said in their reports that criminals smoke Ganja or Hashish to plan their robberies and thefts. With proper knowledge about cannabis, it can be used for better and more socially and legally acceptable things like people around the world do today.
Even today people who smoke marijuana in the form of Charas and Ganja state that it’s “prasad” (grace from god) from Lord Shiva. Cannabis was legal in India before 1985. The NDPS (Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substance) Act that came in 1985 was enforced under pressure from the US government as they were promoting the worldwide campaign of banning all the drugs. The Indian government initially opposed it but later the Rajiv Gandhi government was incapable of holding on to that decision. There were shops and cafes selling cannabis-infused cakes, coffee, and other things in India and Nepal. Currently in India, cannabis is banned but in places like Amsterdam, Florida, California, and 15 other states in the USA, the whole of Canada is filled with marijuana-infused foods and snacks cafes and shops. So, the question is, was India ahead of its time or USA knew what they were doing?
Medicinal Purpose of Cannabis
Besides being used for religious, spiritual, and recreational purposes, cannabis also contributes to medicinal purposes. This is the part where it gets in the favor of legalizing cannabis in India. Ayurveda is an ancient science and it promotes cannabis as medicine to cure a lot of diseases and health issues like digestion and appetite. In the Unani system of medicine used by medieval Muslims, Indians used cannabis as a cure for diseases of the nervous system and as an antispasmodic and anticonvulsive. The most interesting fact about cannabis is that it’s not addictive. In the middle of the 19th century, Cannabis treated diseases like epilepsy, tetanus, rheumatism, insomnia, asthma, and migraine. But during the 20th century, the misuse of cannabis as a narcotic drug and the rise of other modern drugs led to the decline in cannabis for medicinal purposes. Instead of banning cannabis, maybe selling it under better laws and regulations could have given better results. There was research done on the uses and there was enough information to create laws governing it in a better way than before. In 1961, a worldwide ban was imposed on cannabis. However, the need to lift the ban and make it legal was later realized when it proved to be more effective for various diseases. Indians have used Cannabis for the various medicinal purpose including:
- Headaches and migraines
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Chronic pain in adults
- Easing childbirth pain
- Improving appetite and digestion
- Improving mental stability and intellect
- Relieving dysentery
- Maintaining weight
- Social anxiety disorders
- Nausea and vomiting.
The world today is filled with mental health issues and marijuana or cannabis has Cannabidiol (CBD) that aids mental health issues. Being a non-addictive substance and helpful in mental health issues like depression and anxiety, it is better than a lot of prescribed drugs for the same issues.
The need to make Cannabis legal in India was to push the Indian Medical council to use this herb to find cures for various incurable diseases including cancer. Various countries like the US are way ahead in treating Cancer by prescribing cannabis derivatives. There is also a movement called the Great Legalization Movement which started in 2014 with an agenda to liberate and legalize.
Criminalization of Cannabis
Cannabis, a psychotropic drug, has been regulated under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Cultivation of cannabis is legal in India only for medical, scientific, industrial, and horticulture through licenses and permits. Unlawful cultivation, possession, sale, or any other activities related to cannabis can be punishable with imprisonment.
The criminalization of cannabis has a major economic impact. According to a report by grandviewresearch.com, the global market value of cannabis is to go up to $15.6 billion by 2027. After alcohol, Cannabis is the second most-consumed In India, accounting for 3.1 crore individuals. The criminalization of cannabis has overburdened the justice system by arresting thousands of people every year. Consumption of cannabis is mainly observed in poor sections of society. When these workers are arrested and prosecuted, it further deteriorates the social justice system and economic stability in the country. Stagnating the research on cannabis forces the public to adopt unsafe practices including illegal access, unsupervised substances, and harmful substances in the illegal market. Even with prohibition measures, illicit consumption along with stigmatization remains the issue. Criminalizing cannabis with hard drugs like opium and cocaine does not sound fair. It is a psychoactive drug but it does not provoke people to get violet or get you addicted and drugs like cocaine and opium get you addicted in less than a week.
Only a small part of cannabis is really illegal in India and that is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance that gets people “high”. The high or sensation felt by most people after smoking cannabis is euphoric, giggly, amused, creative, and hungry. There are negative aspects and highs that people experience like getting anxious and paranoid depending on the dosage and strain.
The here and now situation of Cannabis
Even with the vast history of cannabis and its medicinal uses, a part of the plant is banned that is found in its flower that gets you high. Cigarettes with CBD oil are selling in India, doctors are prescribing CBD oil to patients with anxiety, migraine, and severe pain. Hemp is used for making ropes, clothes, and reusable bags. Everything in a cannabis plant can help us secure a better future. “Bhang” is selling in India legally in India under a government license. Delhi and Mumbai are in the top ten cities in the world consuming marijuana. There’s one big drawback of the cannabis plant being legal and illegal in India at the same time that is with no laws governing the sale of cannabis the “peddlers” (people who sell drugs) mix it with other addictive substances to get people hooked on their stuff and people are buying because there’s no awareness about it in India.
The only thing in a cannabis plant that is not legal in India is the THC part. But the same thing is legal but in a different form is “bhang”. Statistics and facts abound on this topic. The full picture will be portrayed in time. Stay tuned.