Cannabis Regulation: India far from favouring a more balanced view on marijuana

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December 7, 2020 5:00 AM

India was part of a UN vote to ease restrictions on medical use of cannabis, must adopt a similar balanced view on recreational use

This paves the way for easing of marijuana regulation, even if not full legalisation, if member countries bring legislation to the effect.This paves the way for easing of marijuana regulation, even if not full legalisation, if member countries bring legislation to the effect.

Worldwide, there is a swing towards legalising marijuana, even for recreational use. Now, 27 of the 53 members of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND)—including India, the US and some European nations—recently voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This paves the way for easing of marijuana regulation, even if not full legalisation, if member countries bring legislation to the effect. The 1961 convention put cannabis and cannabis resin alongside addictive drugs, including opioids such as heroin, in the Schedule IV. The UNCND’s move now removes barriers to marijuana research and accessing cannabis for medical use, while allowing for controls against potential harm. With greater research on its health impact, relation to addiction, and activism on both medical and recreational use, a global consensus is emerging on treating it in a more relaxed manner than other narcotic substances.

It is interesting that India voted the way it did—the handling of the Rhea Chakraborty episode, especially by Narcotics Control Bureau, suggests India is far from favouring a more balanced view on marijuana. The Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act treats cannabis as being as harmful as opioids. A Vidhi Legal study shows how the bulk of drug-arrests in the country relate to use rather than trafficking—59% of people arrested in 2018 were users. Given the targeting of users in the implementation of the NDPS Act and the fact many jurisdictions are moving towards legalisation of marijuana, the UNCND relaxing marijuana proscription could perhaps help the country move towards looking at a light-touch approach to regulating recreational use.

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