Marijuana or commonly called in local language as ganja, charas and hash are all the derivatives of a plant called cannabis. It is the only so-called intoxicant that has over  3.1 crore active users in India according to a study by the social justice and empowerment ministry, 2019 with Delhi claiming the first position with the highest number of active users all over India. Delhi also claims the third spot in the list of largest cannabis consumers in the world and Mumbai claiming the sixth spot according to a study of 120 cities held by Berlin-based data firm ABCD[1]. The mentioning of the cannabis plant is even in the ancient Hindu texts like Atharvaveda which states its ability to cure illness and fight demons. Cannabis was consumed in India for a long period of time with European sailors and explorers mentioning the consumption of bhang in their reports sent to their respective countries. Indian Hemp Drugs Commission was even set up by the British in 1894 which reported that moderate use of the plant produces no ill effect[2]. There was a time when India opposed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 set up by the UN to criminalize the use of cannabis and add it to the category of dangerous drugs saying that marijuana is an integral part of the socio-cultural landscape of India because of the use of bhang. Bhang is a drink made by mixing the paste made out of grinding the cannabis leaves with milk and is served cold. Bhang is served all over India (even though government-regulated shops) and is consumed especially during the festival of Holi. The act defines ‘Ganja’ as the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant excluding seeds and leaves when not accompanied by tops which means you can consume the leaves in a mixture of milk and pressed leaves, hence bypassing the use o f bhang.

The Indian government under the Rajiv Gandhi regime had to form an act dealing with the cannibal plant made substances in 1985 called Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act under immense pressure from the US government and their fight against the drugs. This act has provisions about manufacturing, sale, possession, consumption, and transportation of drugs has provisions having punishment of imprisonment from 6 months up to rigorous punishment of 20 years depending on the quality of the material seized. But the 3-judge bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court in its significant judgment dated 22 April 2020 in the case of Hira Singh and Anr. vs. Union of India and Anr.[3] upheld the validity of a 2009 notification by the central government and put teeth to the NDPS act. The government had notified in 2009 that the quantity of the neutral substances in a mixture containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances must be taken into account along with the actual weight of the offending drug while determining the small or commercial quantity under the NDPS Act, 1985. The court opined that these drugs are adulterated almost every time with some other substance which allows the dealers to sell more at a much lesser cost.


A number of states and public personalities have reacted positively in the debate regarding legalizing marijuana in the country over the past few years.

The Uttarakhand government became the first state in India to allow commercial cultivation of the hemp crop (a by-product of the cannabis plant) on a pilot basis over a land of 1000 hectares in 2018. The Law Minister in the then-Madhya Pradesh government, Mr. P.C. Sharma had also reported to the media that their government is planning to legalize the cultivation of cannabis in the state for medicinal and industrial purposes in the same year. The chief minister of Manipur, Mr. N Biren Singh had also shown some positive outlook regarding the legalizing of medicinal marijuana and stated that it may help boost the state revenue. In 2017, a former Member of Parliament from Patiala, Mr. Dharamvir Gandhi had also moved a private member’s bill to legalize the consumption and possession of Marijuana.

Apart from politicians, some famous business personalities like Acharya Balkrishna, CEO of Patanjali had stated that by criminalizing Marijuana, India is denying a full-fledged business opportunity for its people and that we should ponder over the positive uses of the cannabis plant. The famous business biggie, Mr. Ratan Tata had also recently invested in a hemp research firm by the name of Boheco.

In February, 2020 India also welcomed its first Medical Cannabis Clinic in Bangalore which was started by a Odisha based start-up called HempCann Solutions and the clinic was named as Vedi Herbals which will sell tablets and oils made from the cannabis plant.

In 2019, the Delhi High Court had also admitted a writ and sought response from the government. The writ was filed by a non-profit organization called The Great Legalization Movement India or commonly known as GLM India that seeks for the decriminalization of cannabis under the NDPS act.


This can be divided into the following different heads:

Medicinal Benefits:-

There are two chemical components present in the Cannabis plant.

First is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gives a high effect to the person consuming it and second is Cannabidiol (CBD) which was frequently talked about during the media reporting of the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case. CBD does not have an intoxicating component or effect. It is extracted from the plant and mixed with hemp or coconut oil and that is why it is called CBD oil.

CBD is proven to relieve pain, has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety, epilepsy, schizophrenia, glaucoma and arthritis. It has shown positive results with pain relief with cancer patients and prevents cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, improves metabolism[4].

Economic Benefits:-

As already mentioned above, the outlook of Acharya Balkrishna in this article that by criminalizing marijuana, we are denying a full-fledged business opportunity for our people. It can be admitted without any single doubt that by decriminalizing marijuana there is a very big scope of our people earning a huge amount in revenues. The first US state to legalize the consumption and possession of recreational marijuana, Colorado has generated a whopping $6 billion in revenue and $ 1 billion in tax revenue up to June 2019 along with providing jobs to around 41,000 people since it was legalized in 2014[5].

According to the report of ABCD, Delhi had consumed 38.3 tons of cannabis in 2018 followed by Mumbai which had consumed 32.4 tons. If taxes were to be levied on Cannabis at the same rate as cigarettes it would have generated a revenue of around 725 crores and 641 crores for New Delhi and Mumbai respectively which is a huge amount for the development of these cities keeping aside the employment generation from this industry. It is important to understand that criminalizing marijuana is not stopping people from using it. India also has good geographical and climatic conditions to grow cannabis plant[6], which will also help the farmers of our country as they will be able to sell it at a good price to the government instead of selling it to drug dealers and criminals at a very cheap price because of its ban.

Social Benefits:-

The illegal marijuana mafia is said to be one of the biggest menaces in India. The legalization will help in cutting off criminals and drug dealers from this industry and regularizing it by taking in the government regulations. The mafia is known for mixing good marijuana with bad drugs like hash, afeem and other chemical drugs to improve the taste and get high profits. The mixing often leads to degradation of the medicinal quality and has severe effects on the taker. The decriminalizing will also benefit our Indian criminal justice system as according to a study of around 10.669 cases in the magistrate courts in Mumbai, 99.9% involved the consumption of a narcotic substance and 87% of the cases involved cannabis[7].


Marijuana should be legalized and the government should put limits on its production, consumption and possession as is done on alcohol by putting limits for the benefit of the public. The regularization will not only be of medicinal, economical benefit but it will also offset the burden on the judicial and executive forces of the country which is already under a great burden of cases and they are piling-up day by day. The regularization will also prevent the misuse of this plant by people and it would benefit both the patients in form of medicine and the government in form of revenue. The lifetime dependence risk of marijuana is only 9% which is much lesser than that of alcohol and nicotine which stands at 15% and 32% respectively but still, there is a criminal liability on consuming marijuana rather than the other two[8]. There are two contrary opinions regarding the legalization of India as well with the ruling party home minister states to put a ban on drugs or to end it and India voting in favor of reclassifying marijuana from Schedule IV listing the most dangerous drugs to Schedule I listing the least dangerous drugs in the latest convention on drugs in December 2020. The proposal was passed in the same convention that had happened around 59 years ago and had put cannabis on the same list as that of opioids and heroin which is being seen as opening the doors for the use of medicinal and therapeutic marijuana[9].


[1] Sonali Acharjee, ‘Should India Make Cannabis Legal?’ (India Today, 20 September 2020 accessed 17 January 2021.

[2] Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (1893-1894).

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 722/2017

[4] Eloise Theisen, ‘Does CBD oil work for chronic pain management?’ (Medical News Today, 4 November 2020) accessed on 17 January 2021.

[5] Eric Rosenbaum, ‘Colorado passes $ 1 Billion in marijuana state revenue.’ (CNBC, 12 June 2019) accessed on 17 January 2021.

[6] Maria Tavernini, ‘See Inside The Himalayan Villages That Grow Cannabis’ (National Geographic, 1 February, 2016) accessed on 18 January 2021.

[7] Neha Singhal and Naveed Ahmed ‘The long list of harmful effects of cannabis criminalization no one talks about’ (22 August 2020) accessed on 18 January 2021.

[8] Olga Khazan, ‘Is Marijuana More Addictive Than Alcohol?’ (17 September 2014) accessed on 18 January 2021.

[9] ‘India’s UN Vote to Reclassify Marijuana Raises Eyebrows’, Times of India (New Delhi, 5 December 2020)

Author : Shivek Rai Kapoor

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