Is Weed or Marijuana legal in India?


This post has been written by Sabaat Fatima, a student of Hamdard Institute of Legal Studies and Research (HILSR), Jamia Hamdard.

Is Weed or Marijuana legal in India?

In India, the roots of weed can be traced back to 1700 BCE. As time passed, it has been known with several names such as Marijuana, Cannabis, Charas, Ganja, Bhang etc. Cannabis has been a part of India, especially in Hindu religion in the form of charas (resin), bhang (seeds), and ganja (flower of cannabis). Its popularity is because of its one and only characteristic, i.e., high.

The consumption of cannabis can be seen in a large number on Hindu festivals of Holi and Shivratri in which they use cannabis seeds and leaves in the form of bhang known as “Thandai”. However, that pops up is ‘Weed legal or illegal?’

What does the Law say about Marijuana?

Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 deals with the offences related not only to the consumption but also cultivation, possession, use, sale/purchase, import/export, transportation and warehousing of cannabis, except for medical or scientific purposes.

  • Under Section20, in the case of cultivation, a fine up to one lakh rupees and rigorous imprisonment of up to 10years might be levied.
  • For possession of small quantities –
  • Heroin: 5grams-250grams
  • Cocaine: 2grams-100grams
  • Hashish or Charas: 100grams-1kg
  • Opium: 25grams-2.5kgs
  • Ganja: 1kg-20kgs

A penalty of ten thousand rupees or a jail term of 6months or 1 year.

  • If someone is caught with commercial quantities(1kg for charas and hashish, 20kgs of ganja), the court can serve a stern imprisonment for up to twenty years and pay a fine of 2lakh rupees.
  • Section 25 states that if a person knowingly allows one’s premises to be used for committing an offense under NDPS Act, 1985 he will be deemed to the same punishment as under Section 20.
  • Section 28 deals with attempts, abetment and criminal conspiracy with regard to marijuana.
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The law might vary from one State to another as each State has the power to control, permit and regulate these activities. In general, in India, possession of these drugs is considered a criminal act.

For instance, Odisha is a State in which weed is legal in India and people commonly use ‘chillums’. Uttrakhand is the first State in India to allow commercial cultivation of hemp. But in Uttar Pradesh excise rules there’s a prison term of two years and a payment of fine if someone :-

  1. Imports, exports, transport or possess any intoxicant other than charas.
  2. Cultivated any hemp plant (cannabis sativa).
  3. Collects or sells any portion of the hemp plant.

As per the estimate around 60000kgs of hash and 40000kgs of opium are produced in Himachal Pradesh.

In spite of a legally enforced ban, marijuana is still used in various forms.

Views of NDPS Act on Bhang

Bhang does not fall within the definition of Cannabis (hemp) as defined in Section 2 (iii) of the NDPS Act, 1985. In 2004, a local Court in the State of Haryana, ruled that “bhang does not fall under the definition of cannabis” in the law. Thus its possession is not an offense.

Medical Use of Marijuana

It is a well-known fact that Marijuana has several medicinal  benefits. It treats glaucoma, prevents cancer, reduces anxiety, slows the progress of Alzheimer’s, improves metabolism and is even said to spur creativity in our brain.

View of other countries on possession of Marijuana

  • Canada becomes the second country to fully legalize possession of weed in the year 2018.
  • Uruguay is one of the first nations to legalize weed in the world. It has legalized growing, selling and consumption of weed in the year 2013.
  • Selling drugs in Spain is illegal, although smoking weed privately or growing for private consumption is allowed.

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