drugs, cocaine, user

Decriminalization of Narcotics


Drug use is, and always has been, a reality in our societies. Every year, hundreds of millions of people around the world use illicit substances, for many it is about enjoyment, for some it is to relieve pain, while for others it is for traditional, cultural or religious reasons

The wrangle on legalizing narcotics has acquired considerable importance in contemporary nations. While many debate and accentuate the prominence of narcotics substances, prohibitionists advocate for ill effects of legalizing narcotic substances.

Narcotic denotes a drug, such as opium or morphine which begets numbness and somnolence, which is at times used as medicine and sometimes as habituation. However in Indian context, the word “cannabis” is the most prevalent term. Cannabis includes three plants Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderali, when the flowers of these plants are desiccated and harvested we are left with ‘marijuana’, the world’s most common drug i.e. ‘weed’, ‘pot’ etc. According to a report, narcotics are referred as pain relievers and should only be used for pain that is severe and cannot be cured by other painkillers

Decriminalization of Narcotics means eradicating the punitive measures for drug consumption which will diminish the number of people locked up or detained for drug law breach.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances persist to bear diverse medical and scientific utilization. Their legitimate usage throughout the world is for medical & scientific causes only. Simultaneously, these narcotic products and substances have enormous possibility for maltreatment. As a matter of fact, these substances are misused and illegally circulated internationally.

The Decriminalization/ abolitionist approach not only has adverse effects on the society at large but also promotes Narcotics consumption, corruption and drug overdose deaths. Therefore it is vital to revisit the laws.

Legal aspect

Until 1985, the recreational use of marijuana was not a criminal offence. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, was brought in to fulfill India’s international obligations as a signatory member of United Nations (U.N.) to Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961 Convention), Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 (1971 Convention) and United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988 Convention). The act was enacted and enforced to suppress all types of acts which concern narcotic substances like ‘Charas’ (Hashish), ‘Ganja’(marijuana) and other such substances (Section 2 of NDPS act, 1985). The purpose of the act was to eliminate and suppress production, manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation, warehousing, import or export inter state or internationally however the medical and scientific purposes are given legal immunity. Although the act was dominantly suppressed narcotics, it also has rules and regulations to regulate drugs and empowers Central and State government to frame rules.

The mainstream act was amended in 1989 (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances amendment Act, 1989) which reserved significant modifications in the act. In most vital amendment was increase in tenure of punishment which can be imposed by special courts and the special courts can also award death penalty in cases of repeated or habitual offenders. However the 1989 was heavily criticized since the act imposed excessive punitive measures and the 1989 act was later amended in the year 2001.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2001was enforced as a result of harsh criticism of the previous act (1989 act). The 2001 act rationalized the punitive structure and reserved heavy punishment for drug peddlers who traffic ponderous amounts of drugs while offenders with lesser gravity of crime attracted lesser punishment. The 2001 act provided possession under three categories i.e. small, commercial and intermediate and on the basis of drugs recovered in quantity, the punishment was awarded. Supreme Court held that ‘It is only the actual content by weight of the narcotic drug which is relevant for the purposes of determining whether it would constitute small quantity or commercial quantity’

Article 47 of The Constitution of India reserves India’s approach towards Narcotic substances and states that “the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medical purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”.

Advantages and disadvantages of Decriminalization of Narcotics


According to a UN report beneficial impacts of decriminalizing drug possession consists of diminution in number of people arrested, incarcerated, criminal justice costs and creating less fearful climate for people using drugs, improving relations between law enforcement and the drug community, etc. According to another report, consumption of cannabis includes short term effects like relaxation, giddiness, experiencing things around you such as sound and sights more intensely, increased appetite, focus and creativity.

Unburdening the judiciary and police, elimination of unequal applicability of law, promotion of safe practices can also assist the same. Legalizing narcotics will also decrease corruption among police and judiciary at all levels. According to a report18 percent of the global prison population is comprised of people convicted of drug crimes, many of them belong to economically marginalized backgrounds.

Decriminalization of drug use needs to be considered as a core element in any public health strategy. There is no concrete proof or research which denotes that decriminalizing consumption of narcotics has led to increase in the consumption level in the society.


Coordination issues, delayed reaction time, nausea, lethargy, anxiety, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure are all side effects underscored by a research. The debate to legalize narcotics is no new for India, nevertheless the basis for not legalizing it is that there is no comprehensive and exhaustive study or research which designates that legalizing narcotics has differing effects then criminalizing narcotics.

Increasing difficulties to the society at large is another complication which will arise if such substances are legalized and are made accessible to the public without a hitch. The society is already battling with the considerable number of deaths by alcohol and tobacco, legalizing narcotics substances, the number of death are expected to increase.

International Scenario

Argentina, Armenia, Australia (some states), Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United States of America (some states), Uruguay are the countries which have decriminalized drug in a way or other.

While Uruguay has legalized regulated production, marketing and consumption of Marijuana, in the Netherlands drugs are prohibited but the sale and use of soft drugs is regulated and tolerated. In countries like Costa Rica Czech Republic, Mexico, Portugal the personal possession and use of small amounts of drugs in not penalized and in countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, treatment and alternative punishments for minor drug offenses are allowed.

Courts in Spain have ruled out that private use of drugs should not subject to any state sanctions. Numerous constitutional and supreme courts across the world have administered that laws proscribing the ownership and consumption of drugs impede with the right to human esteem, which can be defined as “respect for the autonomy of the person”.

Portugal is said to have adopted the most effective narcotic legislation and the said legislation has influenced numerous other countries to adopt a similar approach towards drugs and narcotics products.

In most South Asian countries, the traditional approach of prohibiting consumption of narcotics products continues to operate and consequently the law enforcement authorities might employ bribes in order to not to make arrest. The governments on the other hand might also take bribes in the pursuit of maintaining the low percentage of chart which denoted drugs and other narcotic products consumed illegally.


The decriminalization of drugs and other narcotic products is a contentious and a very comprehensive problem that has been in general talks for a while now. There are many distinguished individuals inside and outside the political circuit who advocate the legalization of drugs and other narcotic substances and equally a large group of people opposing it. The usage of drugs and narcotics has seized an enormous number of lives so far and the fight with drugs has also come to the conclusion with the verity that it has scarcely done any benefit. It is admittedly correct that certain drugs have clinical values and facilitate in curing various lethal illnesses such as preventing cancer from spreading to other body parts, glaucoma, reducing anxiety, slowing down the growth of Alzheimer, improves metabolism and is even said to stimulate innovation in our mind. It can be interpreted that a total proscription on drugs and other narcotics products will only deteriorate the circumstances. As an alternative, if the Legislation of India can compose and shell out with a strategy for moderately elevating the proscription on narcotics may demonstrate to be beneficial. Decriminalization of narcotics for recreational and medical purposes and the restrictions imposed should be placed parallel to each other. The rest of the usage which is typically done in pursuit of gaining pleasure or addiction shall continue to be abolished.

It is time when we impose and admit narcotics in a rational approach in mainstream society with its healthy usage that should be employed by everybody. To tackle the challenge of youth getting into the atmosphere of drug consumption we need a vigorous implementation and applicable factor with practical approach. Although we have numerous measures to prevent youth from falling into the trap of narcotics, the issue with such measures is the poor implementation of rules which lacks certainty, honesty and consistency. For the betterment of the country it is vital to understand that young minds should not be affected by the drug pandemic. The youth need to understand the consequences of consuming and trafficking narcotics and shall promote society and living by campaigns against drugs, the adverse effects of drugs should be circulated.

Decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana by adults has also not led to an increase in youth use rates of recreational marijuana. Thus, decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana for both minors and young adults may be a reasonable alternative to outright criminal prosecution, as long as it is coupled with drug education and treatment programs. The impact of outright legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana on youth use is unknown, and it cannot be recommended.

The global war on drugs failed at international level, the war which originated as a consequence of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1961, failed miserably. The policy drafters of 1961 Convention believed that strict law enforcement action against those indulged in production, distribution, sale and purchase of drugs would diminish the drug market and would curb the drug pandemic with the object of ‘drug free world’ The same way India may fail the war against drugs if the approach to suppress the narcotics activity continues and therefore India needs to revisit it’s approach towards decriminalization of narcotics.

Decriminalization of narcotics nowhere interprets that narcotic activities should be operated in public. It also does not denote that narcotics should be sold to youth and narcotic addicts. The prosperity and betterment should be the primary motive of the government. The government shall not show prejudice or victimize people on the grounds that they are habitual consumers of drugs and instead a toleration approach should be adopted and enforced.

Criminalization of drugs employs extortion and corruption which consequently weakens the rule of law. The rule of law is the supreme law on the land and plays an important role in a vast country like India therefore, such factors should be eliminated.

It is the vital need of the hour to revisit the already existing approach to ensure that the war against drugs and all the expenses incurred by the same do not go in vain and shall be effective in reaching its objective which is the exploitation and abuse of drugs and narcotics.

Author :

Varchaswa Dubey,JECRC University (BBA LLB)