Cannabis in India is famous with various names – Bhang, charas, ganja, and marijuana. Do you know that cannabis has been an integral part of Indian history? Still, if you ask, Is weed legal in India? The answer is NO. Quite Strange! Isn’t it? So, if you want to know more about weed’s cultural and historical importance in India and cannabis laws, read the following blog.
India- is a country known for its rich cultural heritage. Its ancient history has evidence that its ancestors used to consume weed for various spiritual and therapeutic purposes. And wait! We are not talking here about the history of a few hundreds of years; India’s relationship with cannabis was thousands of years ago!
Hard to believe! Isn’t it?
Still, What made India not legalize cannabis plants and their all forms? Let’s find out.
Cannabis plant in India: History, Narcotics, psychotropic substances act & much more!
You won’t believe that relation between weed and India is thousands of years old. Even in the old holy scriptures of India- the Vedas has a description of the marijuana leaves. Its benefits. These Vedas are believed to be written around 1000-15000 BCE.
Yeah! Mind-boggling fact!
Let’s dig into the history of the cannabis plant in India.
History of Cannabis in India
- As mentioned earlier, cannabis plants’ use began thousands of years ago in India. Even very famous texts of India mentioned consuming ‘bhang’ in 1000 BCE. Bhang is obtained from the leaves of the cannabis plant and does not contain psychotropic substances. And cannabis is considered a sacred plant.
- In the Rigveda, the use of ‘Soma’ is mentioned, an inebriating custom beverage that was profoundly applauded in the Rigveda during Vedic times around 1700-1100 BCE.
- Also, In Atharvaveda (1500-1000 BCE), Bhang is mentioned as a God plant that relieves tension and anxiety.
- Again the Sushruta Samhita in 600 BCE refers to bhanga as a therapeutic plant; sand gests it for treating diarrhoea, inflammation, and mucus.
- Likewise, Chikitsa-Sara-sangraha (c. late eleventh hundred years) by Vangasena, Nagarjuna’s Yogaratnamala (1200-1300 BCE), Sharngadhara Samhita (1300 BCE), and even more ancient books specify the greatness of the marijuana plant in different forms to get stomach health, digestive, and good for a happy and cheerful life and rejuvenation. In other Hindu religion textbooks, Kayyadeva Nighant and Dhanvantari Nighantu define how these plants can cure prolonged pain and work as aphrodisiacs.
- Lord shiva-the Hindu god, is said to have cannabis leaves as his food. Even today, many Hindus offer Bhang, Dhatura, and cannabis leaves to please, especially the cult of God Shiva.
- During Portuguese rule in Goa, they understood that people of India used cannabis plants to improve their work, health, and lifestyles. Even they have mentioned in their text also later.
- During the British rule in India, cannabis was the first time taxed. In 1894, British India enacted and passed the law based on the report of The Indian Hemp and Drugs Commission. They made cannabis taxable to reduce its usage ” for the sake of health and sanity.”
What is the Indian Cannabis Culture today?
Cannabis is illegal in India though a form of cannabis like Bhang has some religious and cultural importance. During Mahashivratri and Holi, the huge holy festivals of the Hindu religion, along with various delicious festivities, Bhang Thandai is served. Many people love drinking Bhang as a ‘prasad’ from the God Shiva in Shivratri.
Hindus and even Sikh Nihangs also use Bhang during Hola Mohalla, and Muslim Sufi during Khidr during Bhang. In this way, approximately every religion in India has its strings attached to the use of cannabis plants in some ways.
Bhang is the most accepted and loved way of cannabis consumption in India. And bhang consumption is almost legal in many jurisdictions.
Now let’s know about the Indian law on marijuana:
The legislation in India:
First of all, check the current status of marijuana in India:
Medical cannabis: Illegal
Recreational cannabis: Illegal
Cannabis Cultivation: illegal in most the jurisdictions
In 1961, the Single Convention on narcotic drugs ( an international treaty) kept cannabis alongside hard drugs and psychotropic substances. However, India opposed it due to its huge religious importance. Then, the treaty allowed the use of Bhang, but India reduced hemp export as a compromise.
The NDPS act:
In 1985, the Indian government passed the Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances act (NDPS act).
The NDPS act prohibits the production of flowers and cannabis resin. However, allowed cannabis seeds and leaves according to the state rules.
Also, the NDPS act defines cannabis (hemp) in the following way:
- Charas, unrefined or refined, includes the separated resin or concentrated preparation is hashish oil or liquid hashish.
- Ganja- the cannabis flower, is the top flowering or fruiting. Ganja excludes leaves and seeds that don’t belong to it.
- Any mix or drink prepared from there is made from the above forms of weed like charas and hashish.
Remember, the definition of cannabis wonder NDPS act doesn’t include Bhang. However, consuming other parts of the same cannabis plant can bring trouble for you. For example, the NDPS act does not make smoking accessories like rolling papers illegal.
Cultivation of weed for commercial quantity and industrial use is legal in India. However, the THC content must be low.
The regional legal Status in India:
Interestingly, Different states of India have taken different stances on cannabis.
Odisha has legalized cannabis, and you can enjoy smoking “chillums” within the state’s border.
Likewise, Uttarakhand became the first state to legalize cannabis cultivation.
In Maharashtra, 1949, under the Bombay Prohibition Act, possession, cultivation, and consumption of bhang or bhang-containing substances were banned.
In 1958, The Assam ganja and Bhang prohibition act criminalized the cannabis plant used in Assam.
In 1961, under the Karnataka prohibition act, Karnataka put ganja and Bhang on the intoxicating drug list.
If you indulge in Narcotics drugs, you may have to face the following laws, and accordingly, you will get punishments.
- The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000- for juveniles or children below 18 years
- State drug laws
Ahead of understanding the laws and penalties, you must understand the small and commercial quantities of cannabis in different forms.
- Heroin: Small- 5 grams; Commercial- 250 grams
- Cocaine: Small- 2 grams; Commercial- 100 grams
- Hashish or Charas: Small; Commercial- 100 grams- 1 kg
- Opium: Small- 25 grams; Commercial- 2.5 kgs
- Ganja: Small-1kg; Commercial- 20 kgs
The penalties are according to the quantities of possession, sale or purchase, and transport (import inter state/ export inter state):
- Strict imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10,000 or both for possession of a small quantity.
- Subject to strict imprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 100,000, or both for quantity more than small quantity but less than commercial quantities.
- Imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, fine of Rs. 200,000 lakh, or both for possessing or dealing commercial quantity.
These laws and the state’s cannabis laws make punishments even harder. Also, growing your weed would send you to prison with a heavy fine.
Are there any developments in India to legalize marijuana?
In recent years, India enacted decriminalized cannabis many times. In the main cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, and Pune, a Great legalization movement began in 2015.
Then in 2017, Minister Menaka Gandhi proposed to remove cannabis from being an indigenous plant as it may aid in cancer and reduce drug abuse in India. After her strong demand, the union government issued the very first license to grow cannabis for research to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO)
Recently, India voted to remove cannabis resin from the Schedule iv drug list on 9 December 2020 in a meeting of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
In India, The famous newspaper, Indian Express, posted an editorial favouring legally regulating cannabis just as alcohol as it is medically beneficial and has to reach the common people.
The State government of Tripura and Himachal Pradesh gave hints of coming up with laws and policies to legalize marijuana and cannabis-related products to boost their local economy, textile, and agriculture sectors. Unfortunately, only a handful of companies use hemp but need more liberty and licenses to create wellness products.
Law Enforcement in India:
- Having only strict narcotics drug laws isn’t sufficient. However, these laws should be enforced properly. India has made laws under pressure from the United States.
- Whatever the reason, cops in India hardly pay attention to cannabis users. Though it is illegal to consume weed in public, they will still not bother you. It doesn’t mean you are free to use cannabis. Believe us; you are in big trouble if you are into drug dealing.
- Hey! Do you remember or have you heard of the incident where the famous Indian film industry actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, was found dead in 2020? It was a huge debate about the actor’s alleged weed consumption and the suspected one’s relation and consumption with drug dealers. Very strong actions were taken back then.
- Religious and cultural sanctions are not there for using weed in India. And thus, India is a vast market for drug lords. Though cannabis cultivation is illegal, a report says that only in Himachal Pradesh, around 40,000 kgs of opium and 60,000 kgs of hash are produced every year, out of which only a handful like 500 kgs get caught by the police. International drug lords take benefit from the vast market of India.
Can you find Cannabis in India?
Though illegal, Cannabis in India is very easy to find out. Like in Northern India, you will get charas and can enjoy smoking in a chillum.
Also, in the other parts of India, you can find marijuana in places filled with tourists. In addition, you will enjoy the best charas and psychotropic by-products in India.
FAQs: Is weed legal in India?
Why did India criminalize cannabis?
According to the senior and founding partner Induslaw Kartik Ganapathy, It was a cold war era in 1985, when India needed the support of the USA, pressuring India to criminalize cannabis cultivation and usage and everything. Thus, India had to take strict action against marijuana use.
Can I travel with my weed stuff to India?
No, you will be caught at the airport and face jail time, deportation, ban, or a heavy fine. Please don’t even try.
Where can I get ‘Bhang’?
Bhang is a legal form of cannabis, and the government has issued licenses to some shops. Always buy Bhang from the government-approved Bhang shops in various cities.
Is medical cannabis legal in India?
There is no such medical marijuana program in India. Instead, their alternate herb therapy is the Ayurveda which has broader social benefits.
Any medical cannabis clinic in India?
Since India has no medical cannabis program, you will not find medical cannabis clinics in India. However, only one such clinic started in Koramangala, Bangalore, in 2020.
Is marijuana in India costly?
No, you will enjoy the best quality weed at a very reasonable cost.
Can India legalize cannabis?
Well, nothing can be said at this point. But as India has strongly attached to the herb for centuries, you may hear about its legalization soon. Also, many people favour legalizing cannabis under the drug controlled act.
Where in India can cannabis grow naturally?
Mostly in Himachal Pradesh. But you will also find the same along the roadside in Haryana and Punjab.
Law enforcement does not trouble you much for consuming weed, but setting aside the country’s laws is always appreciable.
Hence try to stick to the laws whether you are a tourist or a citizen. Cannabis finding is not difficult in India. And Bhang is legal. So enjoy various Bhang delicacies like a beverage such as Bhang lassi, Bhang Ladoo, and many more in India.
When in India, feel the rich culture. Go to the Himachal, where hash cultivation goes in full swing, and you can get some of the best quality hash there.
Enjoying within the see boundaries of the laws will keep you happy always. So please do it.