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Legalisation of Cannabis

The German government approved a draft law legalising the purchase and possession of cannabis for recreational use..


  • The German government approved a draft law legalising the purchase and possession of cannabis for recreational use, allowing adults to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and grow up to three plants for personal use.

Cannabis in India

The earliest known reports regarding the use of cannabis in India come from the Atharva-Veda. In India, there is a tradition of using cannabis in many religious contexts. But although Ayurvedic texts refer to cannabis as a treatment for several maladies, what is often overlooked is that it is categorised as Upavisha Varga (sub poisonous), and its recreational use has been described as toxic.

In India, cannabis, also known as bhang, ganja, charas or hashish, is typically eaten (bhang golis, thandai, pakoras, lassi, etc.) or smoked (chillum or cigarette), drinking (tea), etc. Its potency depends on the content of its principal active constituent, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), though cannabis contains more than 500 other chemicals.

The International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders designate cannabis as an addictive substance, with recognised dependence disorders. Around 9% of people who try it ultimately become addicts. In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, prohibited cultivation or production of cannabis plant by anybody, while reserving these rights with Central and state governments if they wish to do so, by creating rules later.

Acute Health Effects of Cannabis Use

Marijuana has been consistently shown to be a risk factor for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Studies suggested cannabis impairs cognitive development (capabilities of learning), including associative processes; free recall of previously learned items is often impaired when cannabis is used both during learning and recall periods.

Substantial evidence exists suggesting that marijuana is harmful to the respiratory system. It is associated with symptoms of obstructive and inflammatory lung disease, an increased risk of lung cancer, and it is suspected to be associated with reduced pulmonary function in heavy users. Further, its use has been associated with harmful effects to other organ systems, including the reproductive, gastrointestinal, and immunologic systems.

Punishment under the NDPS Act, 1985

  • The NDPS Act provides for the act of consuming any narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances which is an offence for the purpose of the Act.
    • Any person consuming substances such as morphine, cocaine, diacetyl-morphine and any other drug later specified as one by the central government under a notification shall lead to rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to one year or fine up to twenty thousand rupees, or both.
    • Any narcotic drug or a psychotropic substance, other than those included in the list, shall lead to imprisonment up to six months or fine up to ten thousand rupees, or both.
  • In Arjun Singh vs the State of Haryana, the Chandigarh High Court observed that bhang is not cannabis (hemp) under the provisions given under NDPS Act although it is a cannabis plant. Thus it is not necessarily unlawful to eat cannabis.
  • In 2019, the Delhi High Court agreed to listen to the petition made by the Great Legalisation Movement India Trust, that challenged the ban on cannabis stating that the NDPS Act’s restrictions are arbitrary, unscientific, and unreasonable.

Countries legalising the use of Cannabis

  • Far more countries have legalised the drug for medicinal purposes, including most European Union members.
  • Germany joined the cannabis legalisation revolution, announcing plans to permit the recreational use of the drug, as well as its production.
  • Malta became the first EU member to legalise recreational cannabis, allowing adults to carry up to seven grams and grow up to four plants at home.
  • Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis in 2013. 

Way Forward

  • Legalizing marijuana can help reduce addictive behavior by erasing the stigma around it. However, there is no scientific study yet to conclusively prove that legalizing cannabis leads to a healthier relationship with drugs and substance abuse.

Read also:- Drug trafficking in India

Legalisation of Cannabis

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