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The Legalization of Marijuana: India vs. the World

Written by Deeksha Karunakar [i] and Dhruv Chauhan [ii]

[i][ii] Fourth Year, BA. LLB. Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University

Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.

Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.”

Bob Marley

Abstract Marijuana is a drug or herb? Well it depends on the eye of the viewer, for medical purposes it’s a herb and for any other purpose, it’s a drug. Either way, marijuana has its benefits as well as drawbacks. This paper will focus on the beneficial aspects of marijuana as well as comparing data from other countries where marijuana is legal, describing the outlook of the necessity of legalization of marijuana in India.

Keyword: Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabidiol, NDPS Act


Here is a situation, consider you are having a casual interaction with your parents and they come to know that you have been consuming marijuana (also known as ‘Ganja’; ‘Charas’; ‘Cannabis’). The obvious reaction would be a wage of anger and harsh words from your father and your mother would perhaps be shocked, ready to beat you up and become emotionally traumatized, questioning what you did to your life. This situation was not so common before the late 70’s when word spread in the effort to stop the consumption of this natural drug-like, for example, President Nixon stating marijuana as a drug, or comments like consumption of marijuana are mostly done by people suffering from AIDS.

Before we explain the importance of marijuana and why it should be legal, we must understand what is marijuana and why there is a long debate on its legalization?

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985[1], defines cannabis a.k.a marijuana as:

  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]

  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; [3]

  3. Any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom [4]

The act itself states the consumption, trafficking, and cultivation of marijuana (except only fiber and seeds for industrial or horticultural purposes) is an illegal and punishable offense [5]. There is no concrete reasoning behind the legalization of the act but a hypothetical theory which states that in the 1930s, when the usage of hemp was widespread among the individuals in making essential oils, clothes and paper; which was considered as a threat to the newly developed synthetic and plastic industry as well as liquor and tobacco industry due to the easy accessibility of the plant with no large investments. This led to propaganda by these industries against the use of cannabis and of putting constant pressure on the Indian Government to implement laws for the prohibition of the sale of the cannabis plant which was finally achieved in the 1980s during the reign of Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime minister of India, who was further pressurized by the USA and United Nations and enacted Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in the year 1985.[6]

Compounds of the cannabis plant

Even though the legalization of marijuana is a great debate in India, some countries like Canada[7], Georgia[8], Uruguay[9], etc have made it legal to have possession of cannabis for both recreational activities and for medical purposes. Before we indulge in the debate for the legalization of marijuana in India, we have to understand its key compounds and biochemical structure.

Cannabis plants have complex mixtures of biochemical compounds that have an effect on the human brain. The brain deals with the effect of a process called neurotransmitter system or the endocannabinoid system. The plant has 60 cannabinoid compounds and a total of 400 chemical compounds. Some of the major compounds are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol ( D-9 THC) and Cannabidiol ( CBD).[10]

D-9 THC and CBD are the main elements responsible for the psychedelic effect caused by the consumption of cannabis. D-9 THC and CBD are the main elements responsible for the psychedelic effect. It is considered that the amount of THC which is good or acceptable in nature is 9%, which is the amount which is most commonly found in cannabis plants in India.

Researchers have stated that D-9 THC and CBD have different effects on the human body if consumed separately and if they are consumed together in the same natural equation which the plant holds, then those effects are suspended by each other themselves.[11]

The researchers have further provided that consuming high amounts of THC could be harmful and can lead to an increase in anxiety, depression and memory loss.[12]

The higher level of THC is generally found in marijuana used for recreational activities (including smoking marijuana) and has been known to be practiced in the United Kingdom for over a decade, where 15% of the population is dependent on such recreational marijuana.[13]

Difference between Recreational and Medical Marijuana

The following table will be easier access to understand the difference between recreational and medical marijuana:

Why is bhang not a part of the NDPS Act?

Bhang is a mixture of buds, leaves, and flowers from marijuana plants. In India, it is widely added in foods and drinks for thousands of years as a religious Hindu practice, rituals, and festivals like Holi, Maha-Shivratri, etc.[14]

The question of why bhang isn’t a part of the definition of ‘cannabis’ under NDPS Act, was cleared in the case of Arjun Singh v. State of Haryana[15], where it was held by the Punjab and Haryana High Court that bhang is not cannabis under the act but is a ‘cannabis plant’ under the act. Therefore, it is not illegal to consume cannabis leaves but it is illegal to grow the plant. [16]

Bhang is not considered as a part of cannabis since the leaves, buds, and flowers of the plant are utilized in the process and it is a big part of Indian traditional practices.

Why marijuana is legal in other countries?

Canada, Uruguay, Australia, Argentina, etc... are some countries where marijuana is legalized either for medical or for both medical and recreational purposes.

Canada is the largest overall market where the use of any kind of marijuana is legal at the federal level.[17] The legalization of marijuana in recreational and medical purposes in Canada and Uruguay not only led to the growth of the marijuana market (estimated to be $5.5 Billion by 2022 in Canada) but also expanded the cannabis industry.[18]

Studies estimated that opioid (drugs like heroin) use was lower in the states that have legalized marijuana than in states that haven’t.[19] In most states, where the use of recreational marijuana is legalized, showcased a decline in the offenses related to marijuana. Fears related to the legalization of recreational marijuana such as the use of marijuana by teenagers and illegal trafficking haven’t been acknowledged so far, with rates remaining relatively steady in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.[20]

The impact of legalization of marijuana isn’t only focused on medical and recreational purposes but it also profited the industrial sector by growth in marijuana stocks for companies like Canopy Growth, Innovative Industrial Properties, Organigram Holdings, Origin House and Scotts Miracle-Gro. [21] All these companies are licensed producers of marijuana and have a solid presence in international markets like Germany, Australia, the USA, etc.

The legalization of marijuana in both medical and recreational purposes had a positive impact on the growth of the economy of various countries and continues to do so. The positive impact was possible because of the necessary precautions and measures taken by these countries, which can also be suggested for the legalization of marijuana in India.

Why marijuana should be legalized in India?

Legalization of marijuana in India has been a great debate and has been supported by a large group of intellectual individuals like Mr. Shashi Tharoor who wrote a great deal about it in an article[22] published in ThePrint.

The arguments which should be considered for legalization for marijuana are as follows:-

Economic Security: In India, marijuana is found mostly in the mountainous regions like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as well as in the southern plateau-like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the people are dependent on tourism as their main source of income and have small amounts of industries. This makes individuals more dependent on growing cannabis, which is considered illegal under the NDPS Act, but since they are helpless and economically and educationally backward, they don’t have any other route for earning their livelihood.[23] It will be a lot easier for such states to establish economic security by the legalization of marijuana.

GDP Growth: Growth of GDP was something that was supported by Shashi Tharoor as well. India already taxes counterparts of the marijuana, i.e., alcohol and tobacco which are considered as a major source of income for the Government of India and that is why Entry 51 of List II of State List and Entry 84 of List I of Union List covers the subject like alcohol.[24] States as a single unit have some source of income through liquor and tobacco industries by generating revenue then why not legalizing marijuana and generating revenue from that as well.

Medical Advantages: It has been proven by many research organizations that marijuana has scientific health benefits, which has been cross-checked and applicable in many countries like Israel, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, etc.[25] The medical benefits are not just limited to the reduction of depression, anxiety, and insomnia but there have been researches that prove that the use of cannabis can be effective in the patients of cancer, seizures, and glaucoma.[26]

Quality and standardized products will be made: If marijuana is legalized, then there will be a great scope of creating an industry, which will maintain the quality and standard of the product. Presently, drug traffickers are found to be using chemicals like rat poison and Opium to give shape, color, or smell of marijuana which is affecting the consumers' body as the standard of marijuana should be consisting of 9% THC.[27] However, these dealers are corrupt and exercise such methods to gain profit at the expense of the individuals who are using marijuana for recreational activities.

The cannabis plant is not allowed to be cultivated under NDPS Act, yet it is still not followed, as in Himachal Pradesh, 60,000 to 4,00,000 Kg yearly cultivation of marijuana is observed out of which 500 Kg is seized or burned and rest are sold.[28] When the Act isn’t able to perform the main purpose of its enactment, why should we not legalize marijuana and let it be used in different aspects?


The Preamble of the Constitution of India, states that India is a socialist country[29], but are we acting like a socialist country? As a socialist country, there shouldn’t be a large economic disparity among its citizens and they should all be able to practice any economic activity for their welfare and the Government would work for the betterment of their citizens and country.

But the NDPS Act is against the definition of socialist as through the Act, the Government is violating the right of the people to grow and practice cannabis in their life as their ancestors used to. Most importantly the Hindu religion who cherishes its Vedas, in Atharva Veda it states that the cannabis Sativa is one of the 5 most sacred plants as well as the source of happiness, joy, and enjoyment.[30]

The major concerns regarding cannabis can be overcome by implementing positive regulations like:

Fixing the age of 25 for recreational use of marijuana.

Licensing shops and industries for the sale and use of marijuana.

Mandatory to provide a card to every purchaser of marijuana and setting a limit of the purchase.

Maintaining a register for the sale of marijuana.

Providing educational guidance for the usage of marijuana.

Marijuana is not new. It was in use in religious aspects for a long period of time. Therefore, legalization won't be a problem wherein a country like India's religion plays an important role. The benefits of the legalization of marijuana will help the growth of the country in economical, medical, and industrial aspects and lead to a modern and developed India. Legalization of marijuana is not a threat, the threat is in our mind, which is not able to adapt to this thought, and the statement provided by Judge Francis Young proves it, i.e:

Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest, therapeutic substances known to man.[31]

[1] THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES, ACT (1985) https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/10483/1/the_narcotic_drugs_and_psychotropic_substances%2C_act%2C_1985.pdf accessed April 30, 2020. [2] Section 2(1)(iii)(a) of THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES, ACT (1985). [3] Section 2(1)(iii)(b) of THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES, ACT (1985). [4] Section 2(1)(iii)(c) of THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES, ACT (1985). [5] Section 27 of THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES, ACT (1985). [6] Sharma P, “The Complete Story Behind Why Marijuana Was Banned In India” (www.mensxp.comApril 9, 2018) <https://www.mensxp.com/special-features/opinion/43897-the-complete-story-behind-why-marijuana-was-banned-in-india.html> accessed April 30, 2020. [7] Government of Canada Dof J, “Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” (Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Electronic CommunicationsOctober 17, 2019) <https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/> accessed April 30, 2020. [8] “Georgia Marijuana Laws in 2020” (Medical Marijuana, Inc.April 5, 2020) <https://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/georgia-marijuana-laws/> accessed April 30, 2020. [9] “Uruguay Cannabis Laws & Regulations” (weedmaps) <https://weedmaps.com/learn/laws-and-regulations/uruguay/> accessed April 30, 2020. [10] Atakan Z, “Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals” (Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacologyDecember 2012) <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/> accessed April 30, 2020. [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] Ibid. [14] Petre A, “What Is Bhang? Health Benefits and Safety” (Healthline) <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bhang> accessed April 30, 2020. [15] AIR 2005 CriLJ 253. [16] Arjun Singh vs State Of Haryana(2004). [17] “Where Is Marijuana Legal? The Motley Fool”, <https://www.fool.com/investing/where-is-marijuana-legal.aspx> accessed on May 1, 2020. [18] Ibid. [19] “Legal Marijuana Is Lessening the Opioid Epidemic, 2 New Studies Show The Motley Fool”, <https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/04/08/legal-marijuana-is-lessening-the-opioid-epidemic-2.aspx> accessed on May 1, 2020. [20] Ibid. [21] Ibid. [22] “High time India, the land of bhang, legalizes marijuana ThePrint”, <https://theprint.in/opinion/when-india-legalises-weed/66245/> accessed on May 3, 2020. [23] “10 Reasons Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized In India ScoopWhoop”, <https://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/legalize-marijuana/> accessed on May 3, 2020. [24] “SEVENTH SCHEDULE, < https://www.mea.gov.in/Images/pdf1/S7.pdf > accessed on May 3, 2020. [25] “Countries Where Weed is Legal Wikileaf”, <https://www.wikileaf.com/thestash/countries-where-weed-is-legal/> accessed on May 3, 2020. [26] “Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, in The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research”, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425767/> accessed on May 3, 2020. [27] “Management of Rodenticide Poisoning Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoids”, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530663/> accessed on May 3, 2020. [28] Ibid. [29] The Constitution of India (Eastern Book Co.) (2012). [30] “The Complete Story Behind Why Marijuana Was Banned In India, <https://www.mensxp.com/special-features/opinion/43897-the-complete-story-behind-why-marijuana-was-banned-in-india.html> accessed on May 4, 2020. [31] “Judge Urges Allowing Medicinal Use of Marijauna”, <https://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/07/us/judge-urges-allowing-medicinal-use-of-marijauna.html> accessed on May 4, 2020. Bibliography


  2. Atakan Z, “Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals” (Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacologyDecember 2012) <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/>.

  3. Where Is Marijuana Legal? The Motley Fool”, <https://www.fool.com/investing/where-is-marijuana-legal.aspx>.

  4. Legal Marijuana Is Lessening the Opioid Epidemic, 2 New Studies Show The Motley Fool”, <https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/04/08/legal-marijuana-is-lessening-the-opioid-epidemic-2.aspx>.

  5. The Constitution of India (Eastern Book Co.) (2012).

  6. “Management of Rodenticide Poisoning Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoids”, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530663/>

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