Legal and Illegal Use of Weed in India

Marijuana has been used since the Pre-Historic period of man’s existence and is closely integrated with the history of the most ancient civilization known to have been existed. In India, it is an association with religious customs and traditions that date back to the period of thriving gods and goddesses. The legalization of Marijuana has been a debatable topic after the enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs and psychotropic substances act, 1985 illegalizing sale and possession of marijuana all over the world. Despite its use in the medical field, no positive step has been taken. In the wake of the recent events in which two US states have visited legalize recreational use of marijuana, a wave of liberal thoughts has up-roared in this country.


Marijuana (cannabis) is a physio-pharmaceutical drug. It comes from the cannabis plant that can be used for medical and recreational purposes. The main psychoactive component of cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The highest concentrations of THC are found in the dried flowers, or buds.

To a botanist, marijuana traces its origin from a plant known as Cannabis Sativa. To a chemist, marijuana is a type of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) psychoactive drug. Marijuana is contraband to a drug officer. For public policy graduates, marijuana is the subject of a controversy that has been raging for the last 50 years.

Marijuana may be used as a cigarette, or in a pipe, or in a bong (called a joint or a nail). It can be smoked in “blunts” which are cigars drained of tobacco and replenished with marijuana. Many users often blend in or use marijuana to brew tea. Vaporizers are also popular with people who do not want to inhale smoke. The machines concentrate the marijuana THC into a storage container, and then the user inhales the vapor, not the smoke.

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, 1894

Indian Hemp Drug Commission Report was an Indo-British study of cannabis usage in India. By the 2nd of March 1893, the United Kingdom House of Commons became concerned about the effects of hemp products in the Bengal Province of India. The Indian government assembled a committee of seven representatives to investigate these issues, starting their report on July 3, 1893. Lord Kimberley recommended that the scope of the inquiry be amended and extended to cover entire India.

Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was an international treaty banning the development and sale of certain (nominally narcotic) drugs and drugs with similar effects for particular reasons, such as medical care and science, except under license.

The 1961 Convention was the first foreign treaty ever to have clubbed with hard drugs cannabis (or marijuana) and placed a blanket ban on their production and sale, except for medical and research purposes.

Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985

The treaty of 1961 had granted India 25 years to fight back on recreational drugs. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi led the Government to pass the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act under intense pressure from the US-led “War on Drugs” campaign headed by President Nixon.

The country’s last nail in the coffin for marijuana prohibition came in 1985.

This prohibited the manufacture and selling of cannabis resin and flowers, but permitted the use of leaves and seeds, allowing states to control the latter, effectively avoiding the stigma of being labeled as contraband.

The act declared cannabis cultivation legal in India for industrial purposes such as producing industrial hemp or for horticultural use. The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances now acknowledge cannabis as a source of high-value oil, biomass, and fiber.

Under Section 2(iii) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 cannabis (hemp) means:

  • Charas which is the separate resin, whether in crude or distilled form, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes condensed preparation and resin called hashish oil or hashish liquid.
  • Ganja is the cannabis plant’s blooming or fruiting tops (excluding seeds and leaves when preceded by the tops).
  • Any mix of any of the above-mentioned types of cannabis or any drink prepared from that spot, with or without any neutral materials.

Drugs, such as opium, LSD, and cocaine, and marijuana are banned in India due to its strong potential for trafficking, little therapeutic usage, and significant health concerns.

Bhang is not protected by the definition of cannabis (hemp) as specified in Section 2(iii) of the 1985 NDPS Act. The act only forbids the use of certain sections and cannabis plant preparations, including hash resin produced from the plant, or its buds. The act provides for the use of the plant’s leaves, the exact feature that is used in bhang.

In the case of Arjun Singh v State of Haryana, the Chandigarh High Court claimed that, according to the NDPS Act, bhang is not “cannabis (hemp)” under the Statute, but is a “cannabis plant.” Thus, it is not unlawful to eat cannabis leaves under the rule.

The exception under NDPS Act

  • Officers: Officers acting in good faith in the execution of their duties under the Act are free from claims, indictment, and other legal proceedings (Section 69).
  • Addicts: Addicts charged with drug use (Section 27) or crimes involving minor quantities will be exempt from punishment if they agree to De-addict themselves. This immunity will be revoked unless the abuser undergoes complete care (Section 64A).
  • Offenders: Federal or state governments may tender an offender’s immunity to secure his testimony in the case. The government provides this privilege, and not the court (Section 64).
  • Juvenile offenders: Juvenile offenders (under 18 years of age) are accountable to the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Child Safety Act, 2000). This is an Act to reform and update the legislation on minors by the legislation and children in need of care and security, by ensuring appropriate care, safety, and therapy by contributing to their welfare needs, and by following a child-friendly policy in adjudicating and disposing of matters in the best interests of children and their overall recovery. 

Punishment for Marijuana Possession 

In India, possession of banned drugs (weed or marijuana) is an offense under the NDPS Act. The object of drug trafficking is meaningless, and the sentence depends on the number of drugs in trafficking. If a person is caught with drugs or found to be a drug user, whether he/she willingly wants to undergo de-addiction therapy, he/she will not be subject to charges.

Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 covers charges related not only to the intake but also to the production, possession, use, sale/purchase, import/export, transport, and storage of cannabis, except for medicinal or scientific purposes.

  • For possession of small amounts (100 grams for charas and hashish, 1000 grams for ganja), a fine of 10,000 rupees, or 6 months to 1 year in jail.
  • If anyone is found in commercial amounts (1 kg for charas and hashish, 20 kg of ganja), the court will spend up to 20 years in stern jail and pay a fine of two lakh rupees.
  • Under Section 20, a penalty of up to one lakh rupees and strict imprisonment for up to 10 years can be imposed in the case of cultivation.
  • Section 25 states that if a person knowingly permits the use of his / her premises to commit an offense under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 he/she will be deemed as punished under Section 20.
  • Section 28 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act deals with drug attempts, abetment, and criminal conspiracy.
  • Courts may also penalize a repeated offender for 30 years of imprisonment at their discretion. Giving out a mandatory death penalty for repeated offenses in cases of drug trafficking in large amounts is also not mandatory.

Advantage of Marijuana

Certain benefits of marijuana cannot be misled:

  1. Medicinal value – Studies have shown that there are scores of health benefits to marijuana use. It treats glaucoma, prevents the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, decreases anxiety, delays the development of Alzheimer’s disease, increases metabolism, and is even known to spur innovation in our brain. Smoking marijuana not only relieves the patients with serious diseases, but it also helps to avoid disease if smoked or treated with great caution, it also has significant benefits for regular citizens. Many of the benefits of marijuana include medical breakthroughs but its advantages in a country’s economy are another benefit that many people do not take into account.
  2. Less Harmful Than Alcohol – Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, as it does not make the person aggressive, reckless, or uncontrollable like alcohol. It makes a person calmer and more polite and its ethical senses do not impede him. Besides, marijuana addiction is uncommon, contrary to common stereotypes, and only 9 % of people are seen as a victim of the same. Compared with drug abuse this level is much lower. When the selling of alcohol in the country is legalized, marijuana still has a fair chance for the same.

 Disadvantage of Marijuana

Cannabis once eaten has both psychoactive and physiological effects. Other than this, a subjective alteration in vision and, most importantly, mood, the most common short-run physical and neurological symptoms reflect elevated heart rate, elevated appetite, lowered blood pressure, short-term weakness, and contents and coordination imbalances. The results of the long run are less evident. In humans, the use of chronic cannabis documents comparatively few adverse clinical health effects.

  1. Dizziness and Migraines – People suffer from the light spell of dizziness and in some moments, severe headaches are the direct consequence of using marijuana. In this context, drug use can also be deadly, because most people go straight to the driving seat after cannabis is taken. Although laws are in place to discourage people from driving under the influence of drugs, however, it is difficult to determine what impact a person has, and sometimes the dizziness can be mild, but sometimes it can be to the point that a person loses control and can trigger a major accident.
  2. Respiratory issues – The carcinogens that damage the respiratory system are one of the active ingredients in marijuana. You expose your lungs to a high volume of smoke that is rich in carcinogens, while you smoke the pot. While casual users may suffer chronic cough and other forms of respiratory problems, frequent users may risk their lives as the use can lead to cancer and various life-threatening conditions
  3. Creating dependency – While many people consider the drug as harmless or claim to take it in moderation, all medical evidence has shown that marijuana will eventually carry the individual into a state where he becomes a drug abuser. The argument that came out of various research is that all long-term marijuana users develop a drug habit, and they would find it difficult to give up smoking marijuana. Many who seek to give up cannabis at a later stage will experience serious symptoms of withdrawal including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and frequent fits of rage and emotional outbursts.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Marijuana is relatively less harmful than other serious drugs like morphine, cocaine, LSD, ayahuasca, and alcohol. Reports also claim that the rest of the energy taken by drugs contributes to physical aggression while marijuana serves to give the comfort and relaxation of the senses.

India has never seen cannabis as poorly as several other countries around the world. As such, one day the government can likely want to re-legalize it. Certainly, the country is taking positive measures towards promoting the legalization of medicinal cannabis, and it looks as if the industrial hemp industry will expand too.

I believe after the research that marijuana should be legalized in India. The reason is:

  1. It will increase government revenue – Taxing weed would add massive sums of money to the government. It will lead to a rise in the growth of GDP.
  2. Support for the locals – Marijuana is the only source of income for many locals in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow. As a controlled substance, however, the farmers are forced to sell it to the drug traffickers at a very low price and they face extra harassment from the authorities, who are charged to kill the cannabis plants.
  3. It is less harmful than alcohol – Consumption of marijuana has never been considered much more than consuming alcohol as a morally aberrant activity. It was seen as an ‘enlightened perspective’ to hold it legal. Marijuana is currently scientifically proven to be less dangerous than alcohol. Stoners, unlike alcoholics, don’t engage in reckless behavior or abusive fights. Under the influence of weed, they appear to be clammy and friendly.

Few more points must be considered while legalizing marijuana. The Government should make regulations that a person above 25 years of age should only possess marijuana for recreational use. A certain amount (5-6 gram) of the drug should be used personally. If any person is found to have more than that amount should be punished strictly. A moderate amount of marijuana will not pose much threat.



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