The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act bars the consumption, production and transportation of Cannabis/Marijuana/Ganja within the Indian geographical borders. It has been placed in a list which also includes fatal synthetic narcotic drugs like Cocaine, Heroin and M-Kat. This issue has been debated for decades, however, the legality of this ‘natural herb’ is far from being acknowledged. This debate remains a sempiternal debate due to the medicinal properties of marijuana, and for its track record of not causing a single death, unlike alcohol which takes thousands of lives every year. In India, Orissa is the only state which allows the sale of ‘Bhang’, one of the by- products of naturally grown cannabis which is available for sale at government shops. Cannabis is the second most consumed intoxicant after alcohol in India and the World. Hence, its legality remains a controversial topic.
Due to the recent legalization of Marijuana (both for medicinal and recreational purposes) in 3 states in the United States, there has been a worldwide demand for reforms in this sector. While a majority of citizens want it to be legal (at least medicinally), a few groups protest against it. Politicians have been heavily critical regarding the de-criminalization of marijuana-related offences due to concerns of losing their vote bank’s confidence. However, some politicians, like Tathagatha Satpathy, an MP of the Biju Janata Dal confessed to smoking pot when he was in college and even spoke of the legality of Bhang in Orissa in a Reditt AMA. While psychological perspectives are an important constituent to this debate, other economic factors have to be taken into consideration.
Cannabis is a cash crop. It is a tree and different parts of the plant are used for different purposes. The roots are often used to make ropes, the stem and branches are often used for making bags and mats respectively. The leaves are used for the production of the Psychotropic drug which has both medicinal and recreational uses. So it can be said that this plant has extreme economic prevalence. However, the cannabis trees are predominantly grown solely for sale in the black market for recreational use. The debate lies here –
The major questions to be asked are that:
- Are the positive uses of Marijuana enough to outweigh the negative effects?
- If legalized, what is the guarantee that its execution would yield positive results as theoretically suggested?
To answer both these questions, it is necessary to analyse the findings of the post ‘de – criminalization of marijuana’ era of the above-mentioned states of the United States of America.
Certain research conducted by local civil society organisations suggest similar findings. They suggest that although there has been an intensive increase in tax revenue and a chance for the Government to invest in the construction of more public amenities, there still exists a black market for marijuana. The reason being the high prices charged by the Government licensed shops. However, there is no denial of the fact that the number of people smoking pot illegally has dropped drastically. Another cause of worry is the form in which marijuana is being sold these states. While pot is sold in its natural state for smoking, enterprises have started making Pot muffins and pot candy bars which ultimately increases the risk of attracting minors who are tempted to buy a chocolate bar which can get them high. So, is legalizing this substance really a boon?
The answer to this question is subjective but in comparison to other intoxicators, marijuana seems to be a fair player. In Orissa, growing marijuana for smoking purposes is illegal but chewing or drinking bhang is not. We can only think of the amount of tax revenue that the government gets by selling bhang (because bhang is used while worshipping Lord Jaggannath).
Banning marijuana can, therefore, benefit the state’s budget and this money can be used for developmental purposes. There will definitely be a decline in the cannabis mafia. However to make sure everything goes as planned, it is extremely important to make sure that enforcement and execution are at its epitome. States like Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Goa and a consolidated north East top the cannabis consumption chart. Hence legalizing it can work as an amendment for the government.
About the Author:
Ishaan is currently an Economics student at Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi. He is an avid policy debater and a writer on key magazines such as DU Beat and An Inception. His aim is to provide the local level municipalities sustainable solutions for better delivery of basic services. He is also an active campaigner for legalization of medical marijuana and animal welfare.