LAWS GOVERNING THE USE OF CANNABIS IN INDIA

Marijuana and its uses are intertwined in the Indian culture since ages, the law governing the use, consumption and creation of such substances is the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. However, different states have their own laws relating to consumption, possession, sale or purchase of weed or cannabis. For instance, in Maharashtra, Section 66(1)(b) of the Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949, bans the  manufacturing, possession and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances without a license. 

Cannabis (hemp) is defined in Section 2 (iii) of NDPS Act which means— 

  1. Charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish; 
  2. Ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and 
  3. any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom; 

Cannabis plant is defined as any plant of the genus cannabis as per Section 2(iv) of the same act. 

In India, the consumption and creation of such substances is criminalized, under Section 20 of the NDPS Act. A fine of up to Rs. 1,00,000/- and rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years can be levied on any one who is found cultivating Marijuana. Further, for the possession of small quantities (i.e. 100 grams for charas and hashish and 1000 grams for ganja), there is a penalty of Rs. 10,000/- or a jail term of 6 months to 1 year. And if someone is caught with commercial quantities (i.e. 1 kg for charas and hashish and 20 kgs of ganja), then the Court can award imprisonment for up to 20 years and levy a fine of Rs. 2 lakhs on the person. There is a separate law for juveniles i.e. Section 18 of Juvenile Justice Act and those below 18 cannot be prosecuted under the NDPS Act.

New Delhi & Mumbai are among the top-rated cities in terms of cannabis consumption as per the ‘ABCD 2018 Cannabis Price Index Report’. A 2018 study by German data firm- ‘ABCD’, ranked Delhi third on the list of 120 cities with the highest consumption of cannabis, ahead of Los Angeles, Chicago and London. Mumbai was ranked sixth in this report. 

Many believe that the way forward can be legalizing the use of cannabis for other than medical purposes, mainly for recreational purposes since its criminalization leads to unnecessary hassle and does not successfully stop the consumption or creation. The Government can set up guidelines for specified quantities for possession and consumption of the plant in various forms. The Government can also control and monitor the supply all around the country. The plant and its sale can generate income for the government in the form of tax and it can also provide sustainable agricultural incomes, among other things.

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