Examining cannabis’ legal status in India – FP

Charas Smoker

FirstpostA slew of nations including Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa, Canada, Georgia, the Australian capital region, and 18 US states have already legalised recreational marijuana. India is not likely to do so soon though Shashi Tharoor and Tathagata Satpathy advocate it. – FirstPost

Thousands in America are breathing easier today after President Joe Biden announced federal pardons for those convicted of simple marijuana possession.

Biden’s move, which covers thousands in the District of Columbia, comes ahead of the mid-term polls and is a dramatic step toward decriminalising the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of colour.

Biden has also urged US governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

Biden, in a statement, said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

According to the White House, while no one is currently in federal prison solely for “simple possession” of the drug, but pardon could help thousands overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job.

But how are things closer to home?

Status in India and punishment

India has a long and interesting history with cannabis, a drug that is known by many names including marijuana, Mary Jane, weed, pot, hemp, and grass.

The drug has been consumed in India since time immemorial, with even the Vedas making mention of it.

It was in 1985 that India, under pressure from the United Nations [and the US government], adopted the international treaty of Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND) 1961, placing it alongside drugs like heroin.

It is also illegal to possess cannabis flower, its bud and their by-products.

As per Daily O, the following forms of cannabis remain illegal:

  • Ganja (the plants’ dried buds)
  • Charas or hashish
  • Bhang (derived from the plant’s leaves or stem)

The NDPS Act exempts leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant (its most intoxicating parts) when they are separated from the flowering or fruiting tops of the plant, as per Daily O.

This is why bhang remains freely available in many states across India, though several states under excise laws prevent its consumption, as per Economic Times.

Someone convicted of possessing small quantities (100 grams for charas and hashish, 1000 grams for ganja), can be fined ten thousand rupees or sentenced to a jail term ranging from six months to a year.

As per Qruis.com, CBD oil manufactured under a license issued by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 can be legally used in India for medicinal purposes with a prescription (subject to specific conditions).

Indeed, the Centre in January told Delhi High Court that cannabis was not fully banned in the country, as its medical and scientific use is allowed under the law.

“There is no complete ban on cannabis under NDPS Act but can be used for medical, scientific, industrial, horticultural purposes by taking requisite permissions from respective state governments,” the affidavit filed by Director, Narcotics Control, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance said.

Marijuana and Bollywood

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in July 2022 charged actor Rhea Chakraborty with receiving and delivering marijuana to her boyfriend and live-in partner Sushant Singh Rajput.

Rajput was in June 2020 found dead in his Bandra apartment. Police said he died by suicide.

Rhea, in interviews given to multiple TV news channels, has said that she has never consumed drugs herself.

As per The Hindu, the NCB, filing its charges, said, “Rhea Chakraborty received many deliveries of ganja from Samuel Miranda, Showik Chakroborty, Dipesh Sawant and others and handed over those deliveries to actor late Sushant Singh Rajput and made payments for those deliveries at the instance of Showik and Sushant Singh Rajput during the period from March 2020 to September 2020.”

Aryan Khan, ultimately given a clean chit in the Mumbai ‘drugs-on-cruise’ case, was arrested under the NDPS Act.

The son of Shah Rukh Khan who spent three weeks in custody, was accused of being involved in conspiracy and illicit drug trafficking by the NCB.

The agency claimed that though no drugs were taken off Aryan, the six grams of charas from his friend Arbaaz Merchant pointed to “conscious possession” by him.

Will cannabis be legalised in India?

Though many including Congress’ Shashi Tharoor and BJD’s Tathagata Satpathy have argued it is ‘high time’ India followed in the footsteps of US and others, this is not likely anytime soon.

However, India in December 2020 attracted attention when it voted in favour of a move by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 convention.

A slew of nations including Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa, Canada, Georgia, the Australian capital region, and 18 US states have already legalised recreational marijuana, as per Times Now. – FirstPost, 7 October 2022

See also

Drying cannabis in the Himalayas.