Legal Status of Weed In India

Law
19-Jan-2024
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On one hand, The economic benefits of legalizing marijuana in India are frequently emphasized by proponents, who contend that taxes and regulations might bring in money for the state. They also promote the controlled use of cannabis in healthcare and highlight its therapeutic qualities. Proponents further argue that legalization may free up resources for more urgent problems by lessening the load on the legal system and law enforcement. The international movement for cannabis reform, which has seen other nations legalize or decriminalize the drug, is frequently used as justification for India's reevaluation of its position.

On the other hand, Opponents of legalizing marijuana in India, meanwhile, raise concerns about the possible social and health repercussions. They worry that easy access to cannabis could fuel drug misuse and have a detrimental effect on general health. Opponents also point to cultural and traditional beliefs, arguing that legalizing marijuana might go against ingrained social mores. In the continuing conversation about the possible legalization of marijuana in India, striking a balance between individual freedom and the good of the public continues to be a major obstacle.

Why Weed Is Illegal And Banned In India?

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985 prohibits the use of marijuana in India. The production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, warehousing, use, consumption, import-export, import into India, export-out of India, and transshipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are all forbidden by this law, except for medical and scientific purposes, as well as in the ways and quantities specified by this Act.

The first international treaty to classify cannabis alongside hard narcotics was the "Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs," which was signed in 1961 and prohibited the manufacturing and distribution of the drug except for research and medical uses. According to The Times of India, India rejected the treaty's intolerance of the sociocultural use of organic substances throughout negotiations. But the United States and other Western nations outmatched them.

The US is the source of the idea that cannabis use is linked to criminal activity and, thus, social disapproval. India finally gave in to pressure in 1985 and the Rajiv Gandhi Government passed The Narcotic Drugs and Psychiatric Substances Act, or NDPS, in response to public demand, even though it had previously resisted the 1961 Convention on Narcotic, and as per the narcotics' classification of cannabis, it was then classified as a dangerous narcotics. According to Kartik Ganapathy, senior and founding partner of IndusLaw, "India needed the US as an ally and access to American technology because this was the Cold War era."

The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 was passed in India, making it illegal to use cannabis leaves but not its fruit or flower. But eating different portions of the same cannabis plant might get you a year in jail and a fine of up to Rs10,000 ($135). It essentially forbids anybody from producing, manufacturing, cultivating, possessing, storing, transporting, or using any kind of narcotic drug or psychiatric substance.

Act was created during a time when drug use and "excesses of hippie culture" were major issues in the US. Aiming to curb drug abuse, international conventions, and treaties had an impact on India's decision to make marijuana illegal. It's crucial to remember, though, that marijuana attitudes are changing throughout the world, and several nations have started reevaluating their positions on its legality.

Laws Governing Weed in India

The main piece of legislation in India that controls the use, possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis (marijuana) is the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985. The following are some salient points about marijuana from the act:

  • Illegal Possession and Use: The statute prohibits the use, possession, and intoxication of marijuana.
  • Sale and Production: The statute forbids the sale, purchase, transportation, and production of marijuana. This covers the plant as well as its resin.
  • Penalties: The statute stipulates harsh punishments, such as jail time and fines, for marijuana-related offenses. The amount of the material used determines how harsh the punishment will be.
  • Medical and Scientific Use: The legislation permits, subject to certain restrictions and license requirements, the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes.

Punishment For Weed-Related Offenses

In India, marijuana-related offenses are governed by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985. Under this statute, the type of offense and the amount of the substance involved determine how serious the sentence will be for marijuana-related offenses. Here are a few broad recommendations:

  • Minimal Amounts for Individual Use: Small amounts meant for personal use, may result in a minimum sentence of rigorous imprisonment for up to six months to 1 year, a fine of up to Rs. 10,000, or both. 
  • Intermediate Quantities: If the amounts surpass the barrier for small quantities but do not meet the criteria for commercial quantities, the penalty could be as harsh as ten years in prison, and a fine of up to one lakh rupees.
  • Quantities for Commercial Use: Offenses involving large amounts of marijuana for commercial purposes may result in harsher penalties, such as up to 20 years of rigorous jail and a fine of up to Rs. 2 lakhs.
  • Regular Offender: As per Court’s discretion if an individual is found to be an offender regularly, then they can punish them for 30 years. Moreover, the death sentence comes into question if the individual is found to be a part of a large quantity of drug trafficking.

It is important to remember, that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Rules describe the precise amounts that set apart small, intermediate, and commercial quantities. In addition, depending on the specifics of each case, the courts have some discretion in deciding on the proper sentence. Furthermore, depending on the states and their rules, the rules and punishments might differ accordingly.

International Comparisons

Different nations have approached the legalization, or regulation of cannabis in different ways, which contrasts sharply with India's prohibition of the drug for recreational use. Decriminalization, medicinal legalization, and complete recreational legalization are three approaches that certain countries have taken; each has its own set of rules and ramifications.

USA and Canada

Several states in the United States and Canada, have chosen to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use, with an emphasis on harm reduction, regulation, and taxes. South America's Uruguay became the world's first nation to legalize and control the cultivation and distribution of marijuana completely.

Although legalizing marijuana is a topic that both, India and the United States are debating, their current positions on the matter diverge greatly. Numerous causes, including shifting public attitudes and economic considerations, have contributed to the growing trend of state-level legalization in the United States. Conversely, India is only getting started on the issue, with topics including public health, medicine, culture, and the economy being discussed. These nations' divergent approaches to legalizing marijuana are evident in their legal and regulatory structures, as well as in the degree of societal acceptability.

Europe

Portugal and the Netherlands are two examples of European nations, that have chosen different routes. The Netherlands and Portugal have legalized the sale and possession of small amounts of cannabis in authorized "coffee shops," with the former favoring treatment over punishment and the latter decriminalizing the possession of all narcotics, including cannabis.

Several European nations have liberalized their laws about cannabis, permitting its use for either medical or recreational purposes, under specific circumstances. Some nations, like the Netherlands and Spain, have taken a more practical attitude and allowed the sale and use of cannabis in specific types of institutions. This strategy, which recognizes that criminalizing marijuana may result in more serious public health consequences, frequently centers on harm reduction. Moreover, European nations have been receptive to investigating the possible financial advantages, of a regulated cannabis market, such as tax income and employment generation, due to changing societal perspectives and evidence-based policies.

Asian Countries

A few Asian nations have taken more conservative stances regarding the legalization of cannabis. Countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia enforce strict anti-drug laws and impose severe penalties, which in certain situations include the death penalty for drug trafficking offenses. These nations place a high priority on taking a tough stance against drug-related problems, and they frequently see marijuana through the prism of larger anti-drug campaigns.

Asia has shown a more nuanced approach to medical cannabis research and regulation with countries like, Thailand and Israel making significant advancements in these areas. The international scene shows that attitudes towards cannabis are changing, with different countries experimenting with different strategies. There are constant debates about whether India should loosen its strict laws legalizing marijuana in light of changing global trends.

Will India Make It Legal?

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985 prohibits the recreational use of weed in India. Global views on cannabis, however, are changing, and certain nations and areas have been reevaluating their laws pertaining to the drug, including steps toward legalization or decriminalization. Cannabis law revisions may be influenced by public opinion, cultural attitudes, and international trends. In India, there have been talks and debates in recent years about decriminalizing or legalizing weed for specific uses, like medical use.

The probability of whether India will make weed legal or not is something quite unexpected and cannot be based on that. Since, medical use is going on for weed, and considering the amount of petitions and the researchers who are devoting their time to persisting that weed should be legal in India, there can be chances of weed becoming legal, but on the other hand side, there are a lot of cons too. Since the debate has been going on for a while now, there are no chances or any move that is being initiated by the government in favor of legalization. So, in the near time, there are quite a few chances of legalization of weed but in the long term along with the global acceptance, the situation will become better and weed might just be legalized.

FAQs:

What Is The Status Of Medical Weed In India?

The Centre informed the Delhi High Court that although cannabis usage is legally permitted for medical and scientific purposes, it is not entirely prohibited in the nation. The NDPS Act forbids the manufacturing and sale of cannabis resin and flowers, but it allows states to regulate and create state laws about the usage of cannabis plant leaves and seeds. Anyone found in possession of any of these cannabis plant parts could face arrest.

How Do Public Perceptions And Debates Influence Cannabis Policies In India?

In India, public opinions and discussions are very important in determining cannabis laws. Historical events, cultural diversity, and the social and cultural context influence diverse attitudes on cannabis use. Policymakers' actions are influenced by advocacy activities, public debates, and media attention. The way restrictions are changing is partly due to discussions about the medical advantages, economic potential, and social effects of cannabis. Public opinion, shaped by continuing dialogues, has the power to influence authorities to liberalize or uphold stringent regulations on cannabis usage in India.

How Much Weed Is Legally Permissible To Carry In India?

Basically, None! Under Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985, you can go to jail for up to one year, or be fined, or both, for carrying even the smallest amount of weed in India.

Can Individuals Legally Cultivate A Small Farm Of Weed In India For Personal Use?

The NDPS Act of 1985 states that growing cannabis, even for personal use, is illegal. Odisha, a state in India has different rules though. It legalizes weed but only to an extent. Furthermore, in 2018, Uttarakhand became the first State in India to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and scientific purposes. Controlled cultivation has also been allowed in parts of other States including UP and Madhya Pradesh.

References:

  • https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/cannabis-in-india-does-the-law-need-to-catch-up-with-reality/article67388456.ece
  • https://dor.gov.in/sites/default/files/Narcotic-Drugs-and-Psychotropic-Substances-Act-1985.pdf
  • https://www.firstpost.com/india/world-cannabis-day-how-cannabis-the-food-of-the-gods-became-illegal-in-india-10576791.html
  • https://qz.com/india/1902020/how-did-weed-hash-become-illegal-in-india-but-not-bhaang
  • https://scroll.in/article/972852/why-are-weed-and-hash-illegal-in-india-but-not-bhang
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dQdnfXl_zo
  • https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/agri-experts-farmers-cannabis-cultivation-curb-dependence-chitta-8201552/