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Throughout recorded history, marijuana has been utilized and is intimately linked to ancient civilizations. Indian culture has long been associated with the use of marijuana and other cannabis derivatives, such as bhang, dating back hundreds of years. In Indian society, marijuana usage has seldom been viewed as aberrant social behaviour, it is commonly used in the celebration of Holi. The legalization of marijuana has been a contentious issue since the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 was implemented, making its possession and sale illegal across India. Following the recent events, which saw a small number of US states vote to legalize marijuana usage for recreational purposes, a tsunami of liberal ideas has swept the nation. The objective of this research is to conduct a rigorous investigation of marijuana consumption, followed by a comparison study with other countries to determine whether or not India should legalize marijuana.

KEYWORDS: Marijuana, Cannabis, Drugs, Legalization, THC, CBD, NDPS Act.


Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a physic-pharmaceutical medication. It is derived from the cannabis plant and is suitable for both recreational and medicinal usage. The dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant are referred to as marijuana. The dried blossoms, or buds, contain the greatest quantities of THC. THC abbreviation of Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the major psychoactive components of Marijuana. You can use marijuana like a cigarette, in a bong (also known as a joint or nail), or in a pipe. It may be smoked in “blunts,” which are cigars that have had the tobacco removed and the marijuana added back in. Before 1985, Cannabis and its other derivatives were openly sold in authorized retail shops across the country but after the implementation of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances(NDPS) which illegalized the sale and possession of marijuana, the sale of marijuana did not stop Rather an illegal sale of marijuana began.


This study examines marijuana in-depth and determines whether or not it should be legalized in India. It is descriptive and is based on secondary sources. Newspapers, journals, and websites are examples of secondary sources of information that are employed in the research.


There are broadly three types of Marijuana found in India that are differentiated based on the part of the plant used in their creation. The first one is Ganja, which is made of leaves. The second is Bhang, which consists of the tip of the plant. Bhang is widely consumed as a drink. The third type of Marijuana is called Hashish/Charas. It is made from gummy extract of buds and leaves. Out of all these three, only the consumption of bhang is legal. To understand why bhang is legal and the other two are not, we need to understand the NDPS Act.


The earliest written reference to bhang appears in the Atharva Veda, dating to ca.  2000–1400  B.C. Bhang consists of dried cannabis leaves,  seeds,  and stems from male and female plants,  wild or cultivated[1].

Cannabis has been in use in India for over 2,000 years. The Sushruta Samhita, an ancient medical treatise, recommends cannabis plant extract for treating respiratory ailments and diarrhoea. In 1798, the British parliament enacted a tax on cannabis byproducts to reduce consumption[2].


  • In Hinduism, Marijuana is very commonly associated with the great god of the holy Trinity which is none other than Shiv also called Mahadev or Bhole Nath. The hemp plant is considered to be the lord’s favourite and that is why it is one of the offerings made to god.[3]. In festivals such as Mahashivratri, Bhang is offered to god and given to the devotees as ‘prasad’.  Yogis like Naga Yogi and Shadus are known to smoke ganja and charas.
  • Bhang is widely consumed on Holi as according to Hindu scriptures, Shiv created Cannabis from his body to cleanse the elixir of immortality.
  • Cannabis from the start was a controversial topic in the Islamic world, due to its association with Sufis, who consumed it for mystical purposes that orthodox authorities did not appreciate. Quran did not explicitly prohibit the usage of Cannabis but as it is an intoxicant it is considered Haram by many Islamic religious scholars. Yet some of the liberal Islamic scholars consider that this was an attempt of orthodox scholars to limit and portray the Quran as an orthodox book
  • Among the Sikhs the use of bhang as a beverage appears to be common, and to be associated with their religious practices. The witnesses who refer to this use by the Sikhs appear to regard it as an essential part of their religious rites having the authority of the Granth or Sikh scripture3. Among the Sikhs, Bhang was considered a war beverage the warriors consumed.
  • Any food that affects or has the potential to affect our minds is prohibited in Jainism[4]. Intoxicant affects our mind which in turn affects ‘Samyaktva’ which is nothing but right faith and right knowledge and causes a hindrance to spiritual progress. Therefore Marijuana is prohibited in Jainism as they should be able to make mindful decisions to lead a spiritually successful life.
  • The last and fifth precept of Buddhism is “to abstain from using intoxicants that cause inattention”. This precept forbids Buddhist followers to consume anything that prevents or works against Sati (mindfulness).[5]


  • Pain Management:
  • Marijuana/Cannabis consists of cannabinoids that modify the pain perception pathway in the brain which in return helps in reducing pain. This can help treat conditions that induce a lot of pain in the body.
  • Intercept retrograde in addictions
  • According to the study conducted that is cited. Cannabis consists of cannabinoids also called CBD which curbs Stress and anxiety-inducing craving. Retrograde in addictions happens when one is not able to control these impulses[6]
  • Reduces Obesity
  • According to the very famous 2011 study on the relationship between Cannabis and obesity it was found that people who consume drugs have a higher rate of metabolism and reduced energy storage which leads to lower BMI[7].
  • Prescribed for Neurological Disorders
  • Marijuana affects the limbic system, which is located between the cortex and hypothalamus and is responsible for serving a variety of cognitive and emotional functions. Therefore at times people suffering from Anxiety, PTSD, Epilepsy and Tourette syndrome are prescribed cannabis.
  • Prescribed for Cancer
  • Various studies have found that cannabinoids or CBD seize cell growth and instigate cell death in the cervical cancer cell line. It is also known to attenuate the effects that chemotherapy leaves behind.
  • Reduces Blood Pressure
  • According to this study, Cannabinoids reduced resting BP as well as BP after giving various stress tests like the cold pressor test, mental arithmetic and isometric exercise.[8]


  • Respiratory Disorder
  • A carcinogen is an agent that is known to damage the genome by triggering mutation which in turn causes cancer. When marijuana is ingested in the lungs in a large quantity it can cause respiratory issues like chronic Bronchitis, airway inflammation, and other life-threatening issues.
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol is of two types HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol. In the study, it was found that people who smoked marijuana had lower HDL Cholesterol, which is good for health, And similar LDL Cholesterol, which is bad for health when compared with non-smokers. This means that smokers have high cholesterol levels.[9]
  • Weakened Motor Skills
  • THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is a component present in marijuana that is known to affect the cerebellum which is responsible for balance, posture, and coordination. Due to the overuse of marijuana, Motor Skills, and reflexes can be hindered and damaged. This can lead to problems while doing basic things such as driving, due to weakened motor skills one might have slow reflexes and difficulty in reading signs.
  • Addiction
  • According to a study, Marijuana was the least addictive out of five other substances including Nicotine, Heroin, Cocaine, Alcohol and caffeine. Yet this does not negate the addictiveness of marijuana which causes restlessness, difficulty in sleeping, and irritable mood.[10]
  • Brain Development Issue
  • Studies show consumption of Marijuana at a young age can affect IQ. This IQ loss can be up to eight IQ points, which is enough to hamper academic success and job opportunities. It will also affect one’s daily lifestyle leading to the person missing out on various opportunities.


  • According to the Weed Index of 2018, although marijuana is not legalized yet, New Delhi and Mumbai ranked third and sixth respectively in the top 10 cities with the highest consumption of cannabis[11]. According to a 2017-18 study, 31 million people which constitutes 2.8% of the population aged 10-75 have consumed Marijuana. These data showcase that although marijuana is not legalized yet this does not stop the sale and consumption of Marijuana.[12]


  • Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, 1894
  • The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report was an Indo-British study report consisting of a President, Six members out of which three were officials and the other three were non-official natives[13]. The committee was formed:-
  • To calculate the total number of hemp plants, both cultivated and wild, in each province;
  • To understand the usage of the plant, if it was used in a medicinal way or as a drug;
  • To understand the procedure of formation of a drug;
  • To understand its harmful impact and ban it.
  • Initially, the proposed study area was limited Bengal Province of India only but later Lord Kimberley suggested expanding the scope of the study area to India. The conclusion of the reports showed that marijuana was beneficial if used in abstemiousness. Overuse would be harmful, but the degree of harmfulness was not explicitly mentioned and therefore Marijuana was not banned in India.
  • Single Conventions on Narcotics Drugs, 1961
  • Single Conventions on Narcotics Drugs, 1961 was an international treaty whose aim was to levy a blanket ban on drugs including cannabis. This restriction meant a ban on the production and sale of drugs although they recognized that these drugs had medicinal usage and therefore allowed only their medicinal production. They also established INCB which is International Narcotics Control Board.
  • India did agree to stop hemp export but on the condition that the convention has to alter the definition of cannabis to exclude Bhang and therefore bhang is still legal to use in India. India was also given 25 years under the 1961 accord to combat recreational drug use.
  • Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act, 1985
  • On 14 November 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act. The reason why it was passed was said to be pressure from the US-led “War on Drugs” campaign launched by President Nixon. This act aimed to prohibit the production, sale, distribution, and trade of drugs and also control drug abuse.
  • The Act allows the cultivation of industrial hemp due to its high-value oil and fiber. [14]Sec. 2(iii) of the NDPS Act defines Cannabis as:-
  • 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;
  • 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; and
  • Any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom;
  • [15]After Arjun Singh vs. State Of Haryana, it was clear bhang was legal as the statute solely prohibits the use of specific parts of the cannabis plant, such as buds or plant-derived hash compound. The plant’s leaves, which are precisely what is needed to make bhang, may be employed according to the act.


  •  Section 20 of NDPC includes charges related to the production, purchase, distribution, and trade of drugs except for the industrial and medical drugs which are sanctioned by the government[16].
  • If the possession of drugs is in a small amount a fine of 10000 or /and jail time of 6month-1year.
  • If the possession of drugs is in commercial amount a fine of 2,00,000 or/and jail time for 10 years
  • If a person is found illegally cultivating drugs, they have to pay a 1,00,000 fine or/and 10-year imprisonment


There are two different types of legalization in the context of Marijuana; the first one is complete legalization, which is marijuana can be openly used for both recreational and medical use. Uruguay and Canada are the countries where there is complete legalization of marijuana. Then there are countries where marijuana is legalized but only for medicinal use, examples of these countries are Germany and Israel. Then there is a third type wherein marijuana is not legalized but it is decriminalized that is possession of marijuana is still illegal but possession of drugs will not lead to criminal charges. Countries of such sort are Thailand, Brazil, and Italy.[17]


  • In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize Marijuana under President Mujica. In one of his speeches he was heard saying that he made a ‘contribution to society’ by legalizing marijuana, he was also heard calling legalization of marijuana ‘an intellectual decision[18].
  • The Uruguayan government made a proper setup for the sales and distribution of all kinds of Marijuana, in this system purchasers are required to file a registration with government agencies, the weekly purchase limit is 10 grams, and the substance is often only available for purchasing through Uruguayan pharmacists. Consequently, Uruguay’s administration has strict regulations on both consumption and distribution.
  • Uruguay’s marijuana legislation is to establish an environment in which marijuana usage is not widely accepted. It’s standardized, routine, and reasonably priced. This happens as a result of the regulations put in place, which prohibit marijuana advertisements in large media outlets and require state pharmacists to sell the substance for far less than it does on the illegal marketplace.
  • Uruguay’s experience reveals encouraging indicators of economic and social prosperity for nations hoping to reduce drug trafficking, imprisonment rates, and black-market transactions. Uruguay’s choice to legalize marijuana has improved the nation’s financial situation and its residents’ quality of life.


On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. Cannabis Act was introduced which had primarily three objectives to attain

  1. keeping marijuana away from the reach of minors
  2. Permitting adults to acquire legitimate marijuana to safeguard the safety and well-being of the public. 
  3. Preventing Proceeds from reaching the hands of criminals

The marijuana legalization regime in Canada consists of the Cannabis Act, a federal statute, and associated rules and regulations, some of which are susceptible to provincial revisions[19]. The personal ownership of up to 30 grams of dry marijuana (or substitutes) by adults in public (at least the age of 18–21 years, contingent on the region) is one of the primary constraints on the use and availability of legal cannabis. Additional constraints include limiting use to nonpublic environments, selling cannabis-related goods such as flowers, extracts, and liquids incrementally at retail stores, selling it online, through public or commercial operations retail systems (or both, contingent on the province), limiting the growing of marijuana at home (most regions), and prohibiting driving while intoxicated by cannabis.

The overall incidence of cannabis usage increased following legalization (from 22% in 2017 to 27% in 2022), but the rates of near-daily to regular consumption were almost the same (24%–25%).  The percentage of young people who use cannabis (30–50%, based on the poll) and the perception of juveniles having possession of cannabis have been relatively consistent at the elevated rate seen before legalization. The percentage of customers who legally buy hemp has been rising over time; the most recent data indicates that nearly two-thirds of those who use cannabis bought from authorized retailers, with percentages ranging from 50% to 80%, contingent upon the kind of marijuana product.

On the other end of the spectrum, research indicates that over the process of legalization, there has been an increase in cannabis-related emergency room (ER) visits and hospitalizations.


There are certain countries where it is illegal to produce or distribute marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes. Countries where marijuana consumption is criminalized are UAE, Russia, Angola, Algeria etc.


UAE consists of seven states namely Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain. All the laws are uniform in these states. Marijuana is illegal to use irrespective of medical or recreational purposes.

The Anti-Narcotic Psychotropic Substances Law’s Article 46 stipulates that violators would face “the penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 years and not more than 15 years.” Additionally, a fine of “not less than 20,000 dirhams” will be levied on the defendant[20]. Additionally, the legislation stipulates that trafficking in illicit drugs may carry a penalty of death and that in the United Arab Emirates is often executed by a firing squad although this is a very rare situation.

Nonetheless, youth cannabis usage is on the rise. Many of the guys aged 17 to 18 who participated in the National Rehabilitation Center research were able to recognize alcohol and street acronyms for substances. Competition from peers, monotony, personal disagreement, and lax supervision were some of the causes why people tried marijuana alongside additional substances.


Marijuana is illegal to use irrespective of medical or recreational purposes. Article 228 of the nation’s Criminal Code, and may result in a fine or a jail term although the punishment depends on the amount of possessed marijuana. Marijuana possession up to six grams is considered a civil offence while possession of seven or more than seven is considered a criminal offence.

Large-scale possession has the following penalties: an administrative penalty of as much as 40,000 roubles; a forfeiture of three months’ worth of an offender’s income; up to forty-eight hours of obligatory duty; as much as two years of correctional service; and as much as three years of confinement or loss of rights[21].

Even after such stringent rules and regulations Russia continues to have a most severe rate of drug-associated imprisonments.


Before coming to any conclusion or before giving any suggestion, it is very important to understand the concept of hard drugs and soft drugs. Hard drugs are those drugs which give a great impact on an individual and are comparatively more addictive, hard drugs include heroin Cocaine, and LSD, while soft drugs are those that have a relatively lesser impact and are less addictive but that does not negate the fact that they are addictive. The soft drug includes Cannabis and Mescaline. In keeping therewith, the provisions of Schedule I of the Single Convention, the United States agreed to eliminate cannabis from Schedule IV, citing the fact that this step is “consistent with the science demonstrating that while a safe and effective cannabis-derived therapeutic has been developed.”[22]

Looking back on our history it is evident that marijuana was very much a part of our culture and India has never viewed cannabis as negatively as several other nations do. It was quite evident that even in Single Conventions on Narcotics Drugs, 1961 tried to take a stand against legalization by changing the definition of cannabis to exclude Bhang.

After conducting this research, I believe that Marijuana should be legalized as the criminalization of marijuana does not curb its production or sale rather it pushes this operation underground. Legalizing Marijuana will also support locals of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh where cannabis is grown in abundance and due to lack of government support locals are forced to sell their output at a very low rate and due to this money reaches the pocket of abusers. With the legalization of marijuana, marijuana will be taxed which will in return increase government revenue and GDP.

India should try and aim for a condition where marijuana use is not rampant and there should be a proper centralized structure where the sale of marijuana is under the government but also is not so exclusive that people rely on black markets. The government should also make regulations about age so that marijuana does not reach minors and regulations should also be levied upon quantity sold and consumed.

Tanishka Tha

Sri Navalmal Firodia Law College

[1] David T. Courtwright , Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of Modern World 39,(Harvard University Press 2002).

[2]Shailesh Menon,All the highs and lows on marijuana, The Economic Times,(Dec 13, 2020), Marijuana: All the highs and lows on marijuana – ​Decriminalisation of marijuana | The Economic Times (indiatimes.com).

[3] Report of  the Indian Hemp Drug Commission, Schaffer Library of Drug Policy https://www.druglibrary.net/schaffer/Library/studies/inhemp/4chapt9.htm (last visited 13 November 2023).

[4]J. E. Cort ,Review of Jains in the World. Religious Values and Ideology in India 19,(Oxford University Press 2001).

[5]Tim Dowley,A Brief Introduction to Buddhism61,(Fortress Press, 2019).

[6] Neuropsychopharmacology, Unique Treatement Potential of Cannabidiol for the Prevention of Relapse to Drug Use: Preclinical Proof of Principle, PubMed Central(March 22, 2018)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6098033/.

[7] Yenn Le Start, Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys,24 Am. J. Epidemiol, 929 (2011).

[8]JCI Insight, A Single Dose of Cannabidiol Reduces Blood Pressure in Healthy Volunteers in a Randomized Crossover Study, PubMed Central(June 15, 2017), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470879/.

[9]Diabetes Care,Metabolic Effects of Chronic Cannabis Smoking, PubMed Central(July 11, 2013) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3714514/.

[10]Philip J. Hilts,Relative Addictiveness of Drugs,New York Times,(August 2, 1994),Relative Addictiveness of Drugs (NYT 8/2/94) (drugsense.org).

[11]Cannabis Price Index 2018, Weed Index( April 20,2018),https://www.weedindex.io/weedindex-2018/.

[12] A. Minhas,Share of cannabis users across India between December 2017 and October 2018, by demographic, Statista(July 12,2023) https://www.statista.com/statistics/1048845/india-cannabis-current-use-share-by-demographic/ .

[13]1 Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894-1895 , Medical History of British India https://digital.nls.uk/indiapapers/browse/archive/74464868 (last visited Nov.14,2023).

[14] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, No. 2,Acts of Parliament 1985(India).

[15] Arjun Singh vs. State Of Haryana,2005 CriLJ 253

[16] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, No. 20, Acts of Parliament 1985(India)

[17] These are the countries where marijuana is legal, Condé Nast Traveller(June 14,2022) https://www.cntraveller.in/story/these-are-the-countries-where-marijuana-is-legal/.

[18] Zoe Tzanis, BENEFITS OF LEGALIZING MARIJUANA IN URUGUAY, The Borgen Project( AUGUST 20, 2021) https://borgenproject.org/legalizing-marijuana-in-uruguay/.

[19]Benedikt Fischer, Didier Jutras-Aswad and Wayne Hall, Outcomes associated with nonmedical cannabis legalization policy in Canada: taking stock at the 5-year mark,Canadian Medical Association Journal(October 10,2023),https://www.cmaj.ca/content/195/39/E1351).

[20] Cannabis in the United Arab Emirates – The Law, Local Attitudes and Other Info,Sensi Seed,( Sept.27,2021),https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/countries/cannabis-in-the-uae-laws-use-history.

[21] Cannabis in Russia – Laws, Use, and History, Sensi Seed,(Sept. 27,2023), https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/countries/cannabis-in-russia-laws-use-history/ .

[22] UN commission reclassifies cannabis, yet still considered harmful, UN News2 December 2020) (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1079132.