Marijuana – The Ban Of 1985 And The Whole Conspiracy Around It.
In recent times, the legalization of marijuana has been the subject of debate all over the world. Pretty recently Seedo, an Israel-based firm said that Delhi and Mumbai are among the highest consumers of weed in the world! In fact the study said that they are actually some of the cheapest cities in the world to get high.
Then there was the development of Britain developing weed cafe culture under the radar, Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali wanting Marijuana to be legalized in India, then Uruguay becoming the first country to fully legalize marijuana and Canada demanding to walk on the same path.
Even in our neighboring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and even North Korea, the rules around marijuana consumption are not that strict. But in India, the scene is entirely different. The question is why? Here is a brief history of why and how Marijuana was banned in India.
It’s not all dark and it was all good until 1985 when Marijuana was legal in India, until Rajiv Gandhi’s government banned it under America’s pressure.
But first, let us delve into what is marijuana exactly. It’s original name is Cannabis sativa, a plant whose dry leaves are used to make marijuana, often called as pot, grass, mall, stuff, and ganja in colloquial terms. Even hash and bhang are made from this plant only. Now, the question here is that why the consumption of bhang is not as regulated as marijuana. Also, why is the consumption of bhang at Holi or Mahashivratri considered to be absolutely fine?
Even the Atharva Veda says one of the five most sacred plants is Cannabis Sativa. It says the cannabis is a source of happiness, is a joy giver and a liberator. It was the backbone of Indian ayurvedic industry and was also known as the penicillin of ayurvedic medicine. In 1961 under American pressure in a UN convention, it was declared and put into the synthetic drug category but India denied to sign it at the time.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act came into force on November 14, 1985, and has become the statute under which all cases relating to possession, consumption, and sale of ‘Narcotic drugs’ are prosecuted. However, it is necessary to understand that this Act has evolved over the years, and has been amended thrice (1988, 2001 and 2014) which has changed its scope and direction. The Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was passed in 1988 and was brought in to ensure full implementation and enforcement of the NDPS act. This article traces the roots of the NDPS, highlight the kinds of cases that are booked under the NDPS and explain the various anomalies that exist in the NDPS with relation to State legislations.
History of NDPS
Before 1985, there was no law which criminalised the possession and use of drugs, and so the social convention prevailed. Religious and mythological history had references to the usage of drugs, and throughout India marijuana and its various derivatives were sold freely, and were viewed in the same light as alcohol, and consumed, albeit in different forms. It is believed that one of the reasons behind the NDPS coming into force is the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which was an international treaty drafted in 1961. The Convention aimed at preventing the production and sale of specified narcotic substances. It was far broader in its scope than previous treaties because it covered newer drugs that did not exist when the previous treaties had been drafted. However, the Convention is not in itself applicable to any nation, but instead recommends nations to adopt similar measures. Such laws were amended by the US in the form of the Controlled Substances Act and by the UK through the Misuse of Drugs Act. India did not buckle under international pressure, particularly from America, and kept the sale of marijuana for nearly 25 years. However, as the War on Drugs gained momentum and India’s economic position weakened, Rajiv Gandhi-led administration had to finally buckle under the pressure and the NDPS Bill was introduced on August 23, 1985, and assented by the President on September 16, 1985.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was passed in 1985 in a bid to criminalize the cultivation, possession of narcotic drugs. The act has been amended thrice so far.
The NDPS Act of 1985
The NDPS Act contains 5 Chapters, with each chapter dealing with a certain subject with respect to the statute. The first chapter serves as a Preliminary chapter, introducing and defining the various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and finally highlighting that the Central government has the power to omit or add other substances to the list under the NDPS Act.
The second chapter highlights the relevant Authorities and Officers that have been created under the NDPS Act. It also sets the guidelines for the Central government to appoint a Narcotics Commissioner, to set up a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Consultative Committee and to fund a National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse.
The third chapter lays out the Prohibition, Control and Regulation of the previously mentioned substances. It prevents the cultivation or production of the coca plant, opium poppy or any cannabis plant by anybody, while reserving these rights with both the Central and State governments if they wish to do so, by creating rules later. Furthermore, all Inter-State and International smuggling of such substances have been prohibited. Finally, this chapter looks at the regulation on other controlled substance that can be used to create narcotic drugs and also has clauses which illustrate cases under which opium poppy, coca plant, and cannabis plant can be legally cultivated.
Chapter four deals with the Offences and Penalties under the NDPS Act. It describes with punishment duration the various possible crimes that can be tried under this Act, such as possession of such substances, for commercial or recreational use, cultivation or preparation of such substances and smuggling of such substances.
The fifth chapter looks at the Procedure of how the cases are to be dealt with, and also set the guidelines for the officers empowered under this Act.
|One||Preliminary (Definitions, et al)|
|Two||Authorities and Officers|
|Three||Prohibition, Control and Regulation|
|Four||Offences and Penalties|
|Five||Procedure for Investigation & Prosecution|
Criticism & Amendments
Over the years, this Act has been criticized as a hasty piece of legislation that had been introduced under pressure and pointed key flaws in its functioning. Since there is no clear definition of what is to be done with naturally found plants like cannabis, people have been able to get away legally for consuming bhang, because even that isn’t mentioned in the Act. Furthermore, the Act has been criticised for not giving the necessary leeway to the medical usage of these substances, a change that was finally made in 2014. The 2014 amendment created a list of ‘essential narcotic drugs’. As mentioned before, since States have been given the power to allow the cultivation of narcotic substances, Uttarakhand has moved towards legalizing marijuana. However, farmers will only grow this for industrial purposes, generally to makes fibres, and not for recreational purposes. Moreover the Uttarakhand government has also been accused of coming down hard on drug users and handing out similar punishments, as if they were drug suppliers. While there definitely are some flaws that can be worked on, the statute has had an impact on modern Indian society and is very important to any debate regarding drugs.