Why is it in the news?
- The Himachal Pradesh government is considering legalizing cannabis (hemp) cultivation in the state.
- A committee has recommended non-narcotic cannabis cultivation for medicinal, industrial, and scientific purposes.
- A policy framework is expected to be developed in line with the NDPS Act provisions.
- The government aims to limit cannabis cultivation to industrial, medicinal, and scientific uses.
- The move is seen as a potential source of economic benefits and revenue generation.
Current legal status
Hemp cultivation is currently illegal under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
The Medical ground of cannabis cultivation
- The active ingredient of cannabis is
- It has a large number of uses to treat diseases like neurological diseases including Alzheimer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and also to deal with cancerous diseases.
Cannabis cultivation in India
- In 2017, Uttarakhand became the first state to legalise cannabis cultivation.
- Controlled cultivation is permissible in some districts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
- The ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) allows licensed practitioners as well as medical doctors to prescribe cannabis extract.
- However, it must be administered in compounds including other elements, as cannabis by itself is classified as a toxic, though medically important, substance.
Arguments in favour of Cannabis Legalization
- Elimination of Illegal Trade:
- Legalization would eliminate the black market for marijuana, generating tax revenue for the government.
- Farmers and retailers would benefit from legal cultivation and sales.
- Safer and cheaper than alcohol and Tobacco:
- Limited marijuana consumption is considered safer than excess alcohol or tobacco use.
- Marijuana users tend to remain calm compared to alcohol-related rash behaviour.
- Addiction is Scarce:
- Studies show lower addiction rates for marijuana compared to tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine.
- Controlled use could prevent addiction development.
- Creation of Job Opportunities:
- Legalization would create employment opportunities in cultivation, processing, transportation, and sales.
- Transition from illegal to regulated market would require more manpower and vehicles.
- Taxation for Government Revenue:
- Taxing legal marijuana sales would generate government revenue.
- Economists have advocated for taxation, similar to other goods.
- Medical Benefits:
- Marijuana has medicinal properties that can treat various physical and mental conditions.
- It can improve metabolism, appetite, and create a euphoric and calm mental state.
- Assistance to locals:
- Legalization benefits local farmers who currently face low prices in the illegal market.
- Farmers can earn a fair income with regulated cultivation.
- Improvement of quality:
- Regulation ensures product quality and safety.
- Prevents mixing of marijuana with harder drugs, enhancing safety.
- Dispelling Myths:
- Debunks myths about marijuana overdose, withdrawal symptoms, and addiction severity.
- Highlights minimal withdrawal symptoms compared to tobacco.
Arguments against Cannabis Legalization:
- Dependency disorders:
- Cannabis is classified as an addictive substance leading to dependency disorders.
- Claims of low dependency rates are contested.
- Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Emphasis on withdrawal symptoms, including irritability and sleeping issues.
- Only 71% of users successfully quit.
- Insufficient Studies:
- Lack of statistical proof to support cannabis benefits over available drugs.
- Safety concerns compared to approved opiates.
- Psychotic Disorders:
- Users are at risk of chronic psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.
- Impaired neural connectivity and increased risk of lung cancer are cited.
- Availability of alternative painkillers and prescription drugs for medical use.
- Concerns about misuse in a country already facing prescription drug misuse.
- Exacerbation of toxic Substance:
- Legalization may add to existing issues with alcohol, tobacco, and other toxic substances.
- Increased health risks and mortality rates are anticipated.
Need for legal regulation
- Cannabis poses potential risks, making legal regulation necessary.
- Regulating cannabis ensures safe production by competent farmers.
- Examples from Canada, Uruguay, and some US states demonstrate the benefits of ending cannabis prohibition and implementing legal regulation in India.