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Marijuana – An Opinion on its Legalization

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Cannabis is a plant which has the structure of a tall plant with divided serrated leaves, glandular hairs and a firm up going stem. It is commonly grown in hilly areas and has been declared illegal in most part world. What makes cannabis illegal in most part of the world? It has a triphasic effect on the user and psychoactive effects of the cannabis from Primary to tertiary is given below in this pyramid

In the early 20th century, Soldiers would often use cannabis for the recreational purpose which is why the prohibition on the same spread. Until the late 1930s, it was banned in most countries because of policies like promoting health and reducing drug use by the public. The drug control steps couldn’t stop the practices as per data. The number of minor accessing recreational marijuana has remained the same. The use around the world has not reduced plus it cost the government a large amount of taxes if legal and sold. In starting of this decade countries like Uruguay (2013), Canada (October 2018), some states in India, Spain (in private), and the USA states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and in Washington DC recently legalized it, a policy of limited enforcement has also been adopted in some other prominent countries like the Netherlands. It is still subject to severe punishments in Asian and Middle Eastern countries for cannabis use.

Let us have a look at arguments for and against of decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis.

Why Marijuana should be legalised?

  • If a certain number of people are already using cannabis for varied purpose, why not break the taboo and bring this issue up for discussion. This will not only help in curbing the widespread black market (illegal) and eliminating it.
  • It will help in generating income for the government like alcohol and tobacco market. It will not only economically benefit one nation. But also be a creator of job opportunities for growing/transport/processing/sale of cannabis products. It will be able to generate employment, revenue and taxes.
  • Anyone will not need to use untested, currently illicit, forms of cannabis. Better research and findings could be done on how it is beneficial to the health issue. It also helps to recover from drug problems.
  • It has medical significance as well, it helps in terminal illness and chronic conditions, also when the research on it will be legal more potential can be seen

Why Marijuana should not be Legalised?

  • It is like providing what is addictive which will result in an increase in drug-taking behaviour.
  • It is harmful to mental health conditions as it causes anxiety and others which can affect youth negatively.
  • People may want to grow and sell their own cannabis which will get hard to regulate.

Cannabis in India

Cannabis in India is illegal but it has been used in India since 2000 BCE. Different parts of cannabis trees are used in India. The resins and flower are called charas and Ganja whereas seeds and leaves are used on various festivals which are made into drinks like lassi, thandai and are commonly called Bhang. Bhang has also been made legal in most part of India. The usage of cannabis as per a study in 2019 by All India Institutes of Medical Sciences is 72 lacs. It is available in India in Every 100 sq foot area and despite being illegal, it has a large base of a black market, which injects it in a market in large number and has lowest retail price[i]. Indians have a very strong mythical and medicinal relationship with Marijuana. It’s been here for centuries as part of our festivities and culture.

In 1986, the Government of India under pressure from the medicinal lobby of the US gave in to create stringent narcotic laws that made the sale, production, and transportation of illegal in the country.

Except for Bhang, any production, sale, import-export, purchase or any activity that is commercial in nature of cannabis is punishable under section 20 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Every state has different amendments in the said rules of punishment and hence it is difficult to hold the punishments. If you allow your premises to be used for such an offence, you are liable under section 25 of the NDPS Act and will be awarded the same punishment mentioned under section 20. As per the estimate around 60,000 kgs of hash and 40,000 kgs of opium are produced in Himachal Pradesh.

S. noHolding possession ofPunishment
1a small quantityimprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10,000 or both
2more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantityImprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 1 Lakh, or both. 
3a commercial quantityRigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, fine of Rs. 1-2 Lakh, or both. 

              Punishments for holding possession of cannabis in different quantities

It has been urged to legalize it now and since then. After so many legalizing it, many people in this decade took the stand and spoke their opinion on the same. There were some reforms that took place around the country.

Reforms for change

  • The reforms started in 2015-Efforts for change in cannabis laws by the Great Legalization Movement India.
  • In March 2015, Lok Sabha MP for Dhenkanal Tathagata Satpathy said that he supported the legalization of cannabis
  • In November 2016, clearance was granted by parliament to amend the NDPS Act to Lok sabha MP Dharamvir Gandhi and allow legalizing, regulating and medically supervised supply of “non-synthetic” intoxicants including cannabis and opium.
  • In July 2017, the second meeting of group of ministers to examine the draft cabinet for the National drug demand Reduction Policy was held. To reduce drug abuse and aid cancer meeting a suggestion to legalize the medical marijuana was made by then Union Minister Maneka Gandhi.
  • The Union Government issued the first-ever licence to grow cannabis for research purposes to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).
  • On 12 December 2017, Viki Vaurora, the founder of the Great Legalization Movement India, penned an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all members of Parliament advocating the urgent need to legalize the cultivation of cannabis and hemp for medical and industrial use.
  • In February 2018, the Prime Minister’s Office sent a notification to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare directing the ministry to examine the potential benefits associated with cannabis and issue a response to the letter.
  • On 5 June 2018, Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor wrote an opinion piece expressing support for the legalization of cannabis and concluding that it was “high time for India to embrace the health, business, and broader societal benefits that legally regulating cannabis can bring”.
  • In July 2019, the Delhi High Court agreed to hear a petition, filed by the Great Legalization Movement Trust, challenging the ban on cannabis.

Conclusion

The taboo of this drug and criminalization has although failed to serve its purpose as the black market is widespread and rates at which youth is indulging into these drugs for recreational purpose are increasing. It has not been able to curb the black market with the officers that take the money and let the dealers sell. The reduction in use has not been seen and hence there is no improvement in public health and people’s faith on government shake because of some officers and no proper implementation.

Around the globe, many countries have decriminalized cannabis. Canada Government studies show a few surprising trends after legalization [ii] including:

i) Recreational legalization hasn’t seemed to make youth more likely to use cannabis;

ii) More people have sought treatment for cannabis ‘poisonings’ since legalization;

iii) Tax revenues have gone up and arrest rates gone down

However, the harmful effects are yet to be seen on the basis of health outcomes, addiction. This has been stated by Canada government as it acknowledges that there are future unknowns.

Marijuana legalization is pushing further and further into the mainstream and it would be in the best interest for communities and law enforcement to move beyond their preconceived notions of the drug and look for ways to regulate it and make the transition as safe as possible. Marijuana should not be treated as a medicine and legalized for medical purposes. Marijuana manufactured, distributed, taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol and tobacco is the most viable option. Law enforcement agencies need to be created prior to the full legalization of marijuana. Organizations on the state and central level would need to be formed to regulate the industry. There is no definitive way to know exactly how much marijuana is being sold since most of it continues to be sold illegally. Governments enjoy tobacco revenue and are willing to continue to allow disease and death from tobacco smoking.

The breaking of the taboo of these drugs is necessary to protect our youth from these drugs. These topics should be discussed and made aware of students. The corruption of police officers selling at cost of our youth should be checked. It should be legalized and regulated in a fair manner to curb black-market because if public health is a mainstream issue of our policymakers, then tobacco should be banned and should’ve been banned a long time ago.

Endnotes

[i] UNODC’s World Drug report 2016

[ii] 59 So Far, So Good -What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Marijuana_Legalization_Status_Report_101316.pdf

What Colorado and other states tell us about how marijuana’s big election day will affect health. 2012

[ii]https://www.businessinsider.com.au/marijuana-legalization-public-health-colorado-traffic-fatalities-2016-11?r=US&IR=T#/#future-unknowns-7

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Deepanshi Trivedi

Student, Symbiosis Law School NOIDA

Deepanshi is Human rights and Corporate Law Enthusiast. She is an avid reader and Researcher. She doesn’t like sitting idle and keeps herself updated with the latest happenings around the World. For any Clarifications, Feedback, and Suggestion, you can reach her at deepanshitrivedi@gmail.com

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