Charas, ganja, grass, cocaine……weed, hashish, hemp, cannabis, Marijuana…No, this isn’t a run down on drugs. What thoughts come to your mind at the mention of these names? I know, they invoke everything that is negative, wrong, illegal! True, they are, And that is why I am taking the culpability of expressing the pros and cons of legalising Marijuana in India, a lingering debate that has garnered opposing opinions and verdicts.
The Mythical Connect
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world with an estimated 125 million people consuming it in some form or the other every year. In India, marijuana use has been historically bound to faith and mysticism. Cannabi or Bhang or Marijuana was believed to be Lord Shiva’s poison, which even now is offered to his shrines as a fruit of faith. Consumed in India for centuries, It is said to be a drug that helps the user attain “ecstasy in the original sense of the word”. The reality is that our own vedas have identified it as the most sacred plant to have existed on this Indian Sub-continent, then what is the reason behind it being illegal in our country?
However, implementation of stringent narcotic laws in 1986 that clubbed marijuana, hashish and bhang with hard drugs like smack, heroin, cocaine and crack, and banned them all and made the sale, consumption, production and transportation of marijuana illegal in the country. For 25 years since 1961, it withstood American pressure to keep marijuana legal. But In 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government buckled under the pressure and enacted a law called the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
To be forthright, Marijuana and other soft drugs are illegal still, but largely tolerated. States such as West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Tripura and North Eastern states have formulated their own laws and flexibility around allowance of Cannabis.
So, could legalizing Marijuana be so wrong?
The debate pro it says Legalising the soft drug may not be such a bad idea after all. It is anticipated to eliminate illegal trade and blotch black market production and ensure good quality production of Marijuana which is believed to have medicinal properties, in treating Glaucoma, preventing Cancer, reducing anxiety, slowing Alzheimer and improving metabolism…who could have thought of that?
In continuum, taxing the drug will increase Government revenue to staggering amounts and taking a cue from Colorado, where legalizing created 10,000 jobs, in India too, it could reap similar results. Moreover addiction to Marijuana is unheard of with only 9% dependency as against 32% on Tobacco, 15% on Alcohol and 16% on Cocaine.
…Or is it?
Having said that, the fear of the drug being used irresponsibly cannot be ruled out. Marijuana available over the counter? It is a huge risk which could only work if the Government attaches extremely stringent laws and zero tolerance on defying them. My worry is not the legalizing, but maintaining the decorum of usage. My fears lie in the dubiousness that in India, are we prepared for such a revolution….yet? Keeping our law abidance streaks and stringency ( or not) in maintaining laws, my personal opinion strongly tugs at apprehensions regarding the issue.
My fears were confirmed when some light on the underwater issues were thrown by Mr Ashwani Kumar Anand, a Peer Recovery Coach and Mentor at Reeboot Wellness, Gurgaon, who through his own experience with the drug and recovery thereafter, shared with me his views.
According to him, The medicinal properties of Marijuana do not need to be in its organic form, but regulated and converted in to capsules so that its misuse is prevented. He set me thinking on the lines that 16 year olds holding placards for the legalisation, was not something to adulate about, but should set alarm bells off as Marijuana as a medicine is not applicable for youngsters…it is mostly used for curing and preventing post middle age diseases. His insights got me thinking, is the government banking on Marijuana for revenues ?
Moreover, Ashwani shared that the percentage of dependency is misleading too. Marijuana may not have any addiction history, but it acts a gateway drug for the more potent ones to follow….from euphoria to dependency to chronical usage. Science has reached levels where legal and safe medicines work wonders , so is Marijuana really needed? Addiction per se is more a family and social issue, largely related to our innate urge to defy as Indians.
Blindly following the west here is naive, owing to the mental blocks and constraints we are accustomed to. a drug epidemic isn’t a far cry here.
Well, your guess is as good as mine….as the debate continues….!