A Big NO! TO THE LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS IN INDIA BY- ARYAN KAUSHAL

Student at Banaras Hindu University

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………..…………………………….. 3
  2. Why cannabis referred to as “GATEWAY” to drugs? ………….…………….………………………. 3
  3. Physiological and Psychological effects of cannabis ………………………………..…………….… 3
  4. Prospective risks arise from Legalisation ……………………………………………………….…….…. 4
  5. The Arguments advanced against legalization …………………………………………………….….. 5
    5.1 Taxing marijuana will increase the government’s revenue ……………………………….. 5
    5.2 Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes ……………………………………… 5
    5.3 we are depriving patients of a possible hope or cure ………………………………..…..… 6
    5.4 If risks outweigh benefits, why did the US and other countries legalize it? ………. 6
    5.5 Legalization will help ……………………………………………………………………………………..…. 6
    5.6 Will legalization worsen our overburdened healthcare system? …………………….… 7
  6. Legalization would lead to commercialization ……………………………………………………….. 7
  7. Conclusions …………………………………………………………………………………………….……………… 8

1. Introduction

Cannabis is a part of Indian culture, with blessings dating back to the Vedas i.e. Atharva-Veda, which referred as one of the five sacred plants and a giver of joy i.e. euphoria, hallucinogen, loss of senses. Marijuana, derived from the plant Cannabis sativa and often referred as ‘cannabis, Ganja, or Charas”, which is most often smoked (in chillum or cigarette), can also be vaporized or eaten. Cannabis exerts its effects primarily through Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis comprises more than 500 different chemicals. India continued smoking up peacefully until 1985 when the government come down hard on all recreational drugs with the NDPS Act. Cannabis is regarded as a treatment for several maladies. But marijuana recreational use is toxic and categorised as Upavisha-Varga (sub poisonous), which is overlooked.

2. Why cannabis referred to as “GATEWAY” to drugs?

Marijuana is a popular and easily accessible illegal drug in the state like Himanchal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc. So, people who have used illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine) are likely to have first accessed marijuana, including alcohol. Indeed, early studies demonstrated the same that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug.

3. Physiological and Psychological effects of cannabis

The common misperception among youth is that marijuana use is safe and harmless. Its immediate effects include impairments in memory and mental processes. Long-term use of cannabis may lead to the development of addiction of the substance (Around 9% of people ultimately become addicts)5, and of mental health problems like schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Research indicates that chronic marijuana smokers are more prone to bullous lung disease than cigarette smoking counterparts.1 Serious health issues are ignored by supporters of marijuana legalization.

Psychologic effects of marijuana differ by individual and by dose. Positive effects include relaxation, euphoria, sociability, the sensation of time slowing, increased appetite, and decreased pain. Negative effects include anxiety, paranoia, irritability, impaired short-term memory, hindered coordination and judgement. Physiologically, marijuana causes elevated blood pressure, bronchial relaxation, dry mouth and throat.

4. Prospective risks arise from Legalisation

If cannabis is legalized in India “would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues. Lawmakers must understand the short and long-term consequences of marijuana use. Legalization does not eliminate drug problem, only changes its nature.

The author observed that there is an inverse relationship between perception of risk and actual use (i.e., use of marijuana would go up as more people perceive it to be low risk). Marijuana is not completely legal anywhere in the world2, Because no model for legalization exists in practice and it is unclear what would be the consequences of marijuana legalization on such a large population. Prohibition on cannabis currently increases the cost of doing business because of the many risks it places on producers and sellers. A “grey market” would still exist for non-taxed, unregulated marijuana.3

5. The Arguments advanced against legalization

Legal drugs currently wreak havoc on public health, producing substantial financial and health burdens. The medicinal benefits aren’t as strong as presented by the proponents of legalization, much safer and effective alternatives are available in the market. The supporters may argue:

5.1 Taxing marijuana will increase the government’s revenue

If marijuana use increased, there would likely be an increase in the number of arrests such as public use violations, violations in laws regulating age limits, and arrests for driving under the influence. There is already overburden on the judiciary. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) affirmed that “The healthcare and criminal justice costs associated with alcohol and tobacco far surpass the generated tax revenue”.4 Cannabinoids interact with brain circuits in a similar way to heroin, cocaine and other drugs. “The more available a drug is, the more people use it, the more is consumed by the user, and the higher is the number of users who encounter problems such as psychotic illnesses, addiction would ultimately lead to increased demand for treatment services. Today treatment systems of our nation are incompetent to meet the current requirements. Revenues from marijuana taxation would be lower than expenditure to provide treatment to the public.6

5.2 Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes

The National Institute of Health’s (NIH) ABCD study7 found that smoking one cannabis cigarette causes as many pulmonary problems as 4 to10 cigarettes and found an increased risk of a heart attack. It is well known that marijuana cigarettes contain carbon monoxide, tar, more carcinogens and can deposit approx. four times the amount of tar to the lungs compared to tobacco cigarettes.8

5.3 we are depriving patients of a possible hope or cure

Cannabis derivatives play a diminutive role, in medical conditions, for which alternatives exist. There is no restriction for cultivation and procurement of cannabis for medical use experimentation and industrial purposes (such as hemp, used to make fibre), the government has been generous in giving licenses for such purposes. But currently, marijuana consumption could lead to a jail term of six months or a fine of Rs10,000. Illegal production and cultivation can lead to a jail term of up to 10 years.9

5.4 If risks outweigh benefits, why did the US and other countries legalize it?

In the US, they are much concerned about personal liberties and individual rights, which are not at the discretion of the State to curtail, it is the person who decides for themselves. Also, policymakers seem to be excited about another source of revenue. India being a socialist country, is much concerned about the public at large in comparison to individual liberty.

5.5 Legalization will help

Let’s assess the outcome in states where marijuana has been legalized. Colorado legalized marijuana around 5 years ago. The Colorado Department of Public Health constituted a committee to review marijuana harmful effects. It noted there is evidence that its use may lead to cancer, cardiovascular illness, lung diseases, road accidents, impaired adolescent health and reproductive health disorders. The five-year result of this experiment was publicly available in October 2018 and showed startling facts. Organized crime cases almost tripled in five years. Marijuana-possession-related arrests have halved but not decreased dramatically, as anticipated.10

Post-legalization, new types of crimes emerged, such as illegal cultivation, sale, production. In Uruguay after legalization in 2013, Illicit trade continues because of increased demand than supply, lower cost (than the price at government dispensaries), ease of access. This shows that marijuana legalization has failed to achieve its objectives. India has a history of misuse of otherwise beneficial prescription drugs. Corex, cough syrups, after reports of rampant misuse, the Drug Controller General of India to reduce its availability despite proven effectiveness. In the Indian context, when prescription drugs are grossly misused, how can we ensure disciplined used of cannabis? It is obvious that arguments of medicinal or industrial use are simply smokescreens to fool policymakers and swing public support.

5.6 Will legalization worsen our overburdened healthcare system?

India is struggling to control the addictiveness of tobacco, alcohol. As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, around 1.35 million killed every year by tobacco use. Cannabis Use in India is 2.8% ( 3.1 crore users, 72 lakh problem users, 25 lakh dependent users).11 This generation is living in an era of personal liberty, extremely prone to addiction and struggling with personal relationships. Legalization of marijuana will wreak havoc on a population still struggling with pan masala, tobacco and alcohol.

6. Legalization would lead to commercialization

Marketing of cannabis companies will be vulnerable to the population such as youth, insecure, illiterate, poor. Once introduced, companies will establish a huge market that would make subsequent stricter regulations impossible. Following legalization in the West, various new products such as marijuana chewing gums, candies, etc. Tobacco was initially sold as a natural and harmless plant. The morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco and alcohol rank amongst the top 10 in terms of the global disease burden. No amount of taxation on tobacco and alcohol industry can compensate for the health of billions of their users.

Despite knowledge of the risks associated with alcohol and cigarettes, remain legal and industries continue to expand. This also highlights the point that once out, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle.12 However, the promotion of addiction and sufferings among millions is a heavy price to pay for the protection of individual freedom of a handful. Commercialization will lead to advertisement and marketing to drive up the market, the well-established evidence is that tobacco and alcohol cigarette advertising increases consumption.13

7. Conclusion

The author opposes legalizing marijuana anywhere in the jurisdiction of India because it would not be in the interest of public health and possible outcomes suggest that risks related to marijuana are unacceptable. Its adverse health effects remain poorly understood including damage to specific organs and impairments in behavioural and neurological functioning. The author recommends that education materials be designed not only for adolescents and young adults but parents and caregivers as well.


1Hii, S.W., Tam, J.D., Thompson, B.R., Naughton, M.T. (2008). Bullous lung disease due to marijuana. Respirology, 13(1), 122-127.
2American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2005). Public Policy on National Drug Policy. Chevy Chase, MD: American Society of Addiction Medicine. Available: http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1nationaldrug-policy-4-94.pdf
35 Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J. P., Pacula, R. L., MacCoun, R. J., & Reuter, P. H. (2010). Altered State? Assessing How marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Drug Policy Research Center. Available: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2010/RAND_OP315.pdf
4Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2011). National Drug Control Strategy 2011. Washington, DC: Office of National Drug Control Policy. Available: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/ndcs2011.pdf
5White Paper on State-Level Proposals to Legalize Marijuana Asam.org, https://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2012/07/30/white-paper-on-state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana (last visited Oct 17, 2019)
6White Paper on State-Level Proposals to Legalize Marijuana Asam.org, https://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2012/07/30/white-paper-on-state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana (last visited Oct 17, 2019)
7ABCD Study Announces Fast Track Data Release | Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH Addictionresearch.nih.gov, https://www.addictionresearch.nih.gov/abcd-study-announces-fast-track-data-release (last visited Oct 21, 2019)
8Wu, T.C., Tashkin, D.P., Djahed, B., & Rose, J. E. (1998). Pulmonary hazards of smoking marijuana as compared with tobacco. New England Journal of Medicine, 318(6), 347-351.
9Delhi consumes more weed than Los Angeles, Mumbai more than London Quartz India, https://qz.com/india/1705970/delhi-mumbai-among-worlds-biggest-consumers-of-weed/ (last visited Oct 17, 2019)
10Why cannabis shouldn’t be legalised in India The Financial Express, https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/why-cannabis-shouldnt-be-legalised-in-india/1455236/ (last visited Oct 12, 2019)
11NDDTC, AIIMS submits report “Magnitude of Substance use in India” to M/O Social Justice & Empowerment Pib.gov.in, https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=188688&fbclid=IwAR1RxwrAqyF440zHF0XxvJ4Jc6TW5Un539iB4NDMIBha4pQF4RQHbuRydPw (last visited Oct 18, 2019)
12he risks of legalising cannabis The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-risks-of-legalising-cannabis/article29216035.ece (last visited Oct 3, 2019)
13Tye, J. B., Warner, K. E., & Glantz, S. A.. (1987). Tobacco advertising and consumption: Evidence of a causal relationship. Journal of Public Health Policy 8(4), 492-508

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