Legalising Marijuana in India
Uttarakhand will be the first State in the country to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crop, a rich source of high-quality fibre and a host of medicinal and nutritive products.
Women and Child Development Minister has suggested legalising marijuana in India for medical purposes.
Three major science administrators in India — The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnolgy — are getting together to promote research in herbal drugs, some of which involve deriving new drugs from marijuana.
Among the first such studies likely to kick off is joint investigation by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), Mumbai.
Here researchers will test whether strains of marijuana grown at the CSIR-IIIM campus in Jammu could be effective in the treatment of breast cancer, sickle-cell anaemia as well as be “bio-equivalent” (similar in make-up and effect) to marijuana-derived drugs already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA)
Marijuana (or hemp), more formally parts of the cannabis super-family, is illegal for commercial cultivation though it grows as weed in several parts of the country. Uttarakhand, Jammu and — as of this month Uttar Pradesh — have allowed restricted cultivation of the plant for medical research.
Marijuana is a greenish-grey mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of Cannabis sativa – the hemp plant.
Most people smoke marijuana, though it can also be used in other forms such as edibles, powders and oils.
It used for controlling pain for medical issues, like cancer, nervous system diseases, glaucoma, migraines, etc and also used to treat nausea and improve appetites for people with HIV or other chronic illnesses.
Cannabis is banned in most countries but number countries have started decriminalising its use in recent years.
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical, recreational & religious purposes.
Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporization, within food, or as an extract.
It creates mental and physical effects, such as a “high” or “stoned” feeling, a general change in perception, and an increase in appetite.
Short term side effects may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.
Long term side effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability and behavioural problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy.
Historic significance in India:
Cannabis has been used since ancient times in India, dating back to 2000 BCE.
The cannabis plant has been mentioned as one of the five sacred plants in the Vedas.
Bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis, which is ‘consumed either in the form of a drink or smoked’ is common during the Hindu festivals of Holi and Mahashivaratri.
The studies into the therapeutic potential of marijuana is part of a larger governmental thrust to making new drugs derived from herbs and plants that find mention in Ayurvedic and other traditional-medicine knowledge systems.
It’s a sleep aid, appetite enhancer, anxiety and pain reliever. It has brought immense relief to the terminally ill. It’s also a muscle relaxant, aiding and speeding recovery from bodybreaking fevers like chikungunya. (I can vouch for this from experience.) And as more legal research is done into it, more medically proven benefits are bound to surface. Bharat was always aware of it. Our sadhus and gods smoked it. No Mahashivratri is complete without a good chillum; no Holi without a good bhang ..
There has been no rigorous scientific testing of the medicinal properties of cannabis due to restrictive laws.
There is considerable evidence though, supporting its use in the treatment of chemotherapy – induced nausea and vomiting, neuropathic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
Lower levels of evidence support its use for AIDS, wasting syndrome, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and glaucoma.
The possession, use, and sale of cannabis are illegal in most countries as a result of an agreement in the ‘International Opium Convention’ (1925).
Indian government banned the use of cannabis by passing the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act-1985.
The rigour of restrictive laws & its implementation varies greatly across countries.
Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and several U.S. states are some territories were medical use of cannabis is legal.
Netherlands (1976) & some US states (recently) have allowed for the recreational use of marijuana.
Reasons why marijuana should now be legalized in India:
1.It will eliminate illegal trade and associate crimes
Marijuana legalization (or decriminalization) will replace the black market production and distribution with an ‘overboard industry’. There will be rules and regulations but the trade will be ‘populated by the government, farmers, merchants and retails clerks, not by criminals or drug dealers’.
- Marijuana addiction is rare
An epidemiological study showed that only 9 percent of those who use marijuana end up being clinically dependent on it. The ‘comparable rates’ for tobacco, alcohol and cocaine stood at 32 percent, 15 percent and 16 percent respectively.
- Taxing marijuana will increase government’s revenue
By legalizing and taxing marijuana, the government will stand to earn huge amounts of revenue that will otherwise go to the Italian and Israeli drug cartels. In an open letter to US President George Bush, around 500 economists, led by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, called for marijuana to be “legal but taxed and regulated like other goods”.
- It will create job opportunities
Legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical purposes in Colorado has created 10,000 new jobs in the area. There are a plethora of jobs that can be created by the marijuana industry and help reduce India’s unemployment rate.
- Marijuana use has medical benefits
Studies have shown that marijuana use has dozens of medical benefits. It treats glaucoma, prevents cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, reduces anxiety, slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, improves metabolism and is even said to spur creativity in our brain.
- It will help the locals
In states like Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where cannabis plants grow, marijuana is the only source of income for many locals. However, being a banned substance, the farmers are forced to sell it at a very cheap price to the drug dealers and they face additional pressure from the police as well, who are paid to destroy the cannabis plantations. Legalizing marijuana will end this ‘war on drugs’ targeting our own countrymen.
- Legalization will ensure that good quality marijuana is sold to the consumers
In India, dealers often mix hash and weed with chemicals or other drugs like afeem to improve the taste, color, texture or ‘high’ of the stuff. Legalization will improve the quality of marijuana sold to the users because government will regulate the production and sale of the drug.
- Marijuana has limited withdrawal symptoms and its use can’t be fatal
“I’ve heard you have to smoke something like 15,000 joints in 20 minutes to get a toxic amount of delta-9 tetrahydrocannibinol,” says Dr. Paul Hornby, a biochemist and human pathologist. “I challenge anybody to do that.” Not only is it virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana, the users face nominal withdrawal symptoms after consuming it.
- Prohibition has failed to control the use and domestic production of marijuana
It is said that 60,000 kgs of hash and 40,000 kgs of opium is produced in Himachal Pradesh. Out of that, only 500 kgs is seized annually. As per reports, “more than 1,600 hectares of cultivable farmland and an additional 500 hectares of illicitly felled public forests are currently under cannabis cultivation”. The rate is only increasing. Moreover, these days, it is pretty easy to buy marijuana in India and its consumption is widespread among the youth. So it is fair to say that prohibition has failed to curb the ‘problem’.
- Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol
Marijuana consumption was never regarded as a socially deviant behaviour any more than drinking alcohol was. In fact, keeping it legal was considered as an ‘enlightened view’. It is now medically proven that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Unlike alcoholics, stoners don’t indulge in rash driving or violent fights. They tend to be calm and pleasant under the influence of marijuana
The Doctors Advice:
The opinion among medical practicners in India is divided.
Some are of the opinion that, it is a better alternative to alcohol & tobacco consumption.
While supporters claim that denying medical use of marijuana is a violation of ‘Right to life’, others believe it is not all that important a drug for Palliative Care.
Most doctors advocate caution, as a wrongly worded policy could potentially aggrevate substance abuse among youngsters.