Global spotlight: The future of cannabis in India

What’s going on with cannabis legalisation in India?

Biswarup Ganguly

By John Hiltz for marijuana.com

At the beginning of this month, our mates at Marijuana.com reported that India’s Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, called for the legalisation of medical marijuana in order to curb drug use in her country.

Along with Gandhi, there are a handful of government officials in this pivotal South Asian nation who want cannabis reform as well. One of those individuals is MP Tathagata Satpathy.

“In most states of India, cannabis is an illegal substance and the Narcotics Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) deals with possession and [trafficking] on a similar footing,” said Satpathy in an interview with Marijuana.com. “There are some other states, such as my Orissa and West Bengal, where Bhang (a mixture of natural growing marijuana leaves and flowers) is legal and can be purchased from a government licensed outlet.”

Satpathy also clearly agrees with the statement made by Gandhi regarding the legalisation of medical cannabis in India. “In today’s world marijuana’s properties are known. It is [no longer] just recreational or psychotropic, but also has therapeutic and industrial usage. Some nations are known to be investing millions of dollars for developing strains of the plants which will have specific use,” he said.Satpathy added that the medicinal properties of cannabis predate any prohibition of the plant by many centuries. “India has known the properties of cannabis since the ancient times, there is evidence [of this] in our ancient texts.”

Regardless of the long history and cultural significance, cannabis in India was unfortunately subjected to prohibition just like most places around the world, but it is still smoked for religious purposes. “Traditionally, Indians have used the cannabis plant for religious and other socio-cultural purposes. The consciousness altering aspect has also had an important social history,” said Satpathy.

“The problem India is currently facing with the legalisation is that first, there is no clear information regarding this plant or the substances it produces that is available to the general public. The stigma has clouded the minds of regulators as well, to an extent. Second, the issue is that there is no standard plant material available for the public that is medical grade.”

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

c Allie Beckett

Satpathy is still confident, despite the current prohibition, that cannabis will eventually be legalised in India as the rest of the world comes around to the idea. “If medical cannabis becomes a reality for the whole world, I see no reason why India would want itself out of the orbit of the therapeutic values of this gift of nature on Earth. Especially [because] the origins of this plant are traced back to India itself.”Satpathy also believes that the general population would have no issues surrounding the eventual legalisation of cannabis. “I do not think I am capable of speaking for the majority of Indians but the average citizen of this country is probably not bothered about legalising,” he said.

Satpathy added that “there is now a new interest within this domain. Startups like the Bombay Hemp Company have done tremendous work and are creating a market for these beneficial products in India. Progress like this will attract more people towards this reform.”

For the moment, the call for marijuana legalisation in India is not as loud as it could be. But if politicians of the nation continue their public acceptance of medical cannabis, no doubt they will find support waiting for them among India’s general population.

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