Disclaimer: This article does not promote the use of recreational drugs. Consumption, procurement, and sale of drugs listed as controlled substances under the NDPS Act is a punishable offense in India.
Before 1985, the procurement and consumption of marijuana was legal in India, especially as part of religious festivals. It was only after The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Bill was passed in 1985 that the procurement, sale, and consumption of all drugs, including marijuana/cannabis, was prohibited.
Consequently, cannabis in the form of flower (ganja) or resin (charas) was criminalized but states were expected to regulate the sale of bhang (a byproduct) on their own terms.
Here’s everything you should know about the procurement and consumption of marijuana in India:
1. You can legally obtain marijuana, in the form of bhang or bhang products, in 6 Indian cities – Jaisalmer, Pushkar, Varanasi, Mathura, Hampi, and Noida but from government authorized shops. In 2017, Gujarat also legalized bhang.
2. Although NDPS allows state-regulated use of bhang, The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958, and the Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949 prohibits the sale and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances in Assam and Maharashtra respectively.
3. The NDPS Act lists ganja as a controlled substance, along with heroin, cocaine, etc. Thus, a person will be prosecuted for its procurement, sale, or consumption, but the punishment depends upon the quantity discovered.
4. A person accused under the NDPS act for a small quantity of controlled substance, i.e. less than 1kg, may face a fine worth ₹10,000, or 6 months of imprisonment, or both.
5. A person accused under the NDPS act for a quantity more than 1kg but less than commercial quantity (20 kgs) may face a fine worth ₹1 lakh and an imprisonment term that may last 10 years.
6. A person accused under the NDPS act for a commercial quantity of a controlled substance may face a fine as high as ₹2 lakh and an imprisonment term between 10 to 20 years.
7. A person who knowingly allows one’s premise to be used for the consumption, sale, and/or procurement of controlled substances, including ganja, is punishable under Section 25 of the NDPS act.
8. Commercial cultivation of weed, though an offense under Section 20 of the NDPS act, is also regulated by states. Uttarakhand, for example, has allowed the commercial cultivation of hemp, a strain fo Cannabis.
9. The fight to legalize cannabis in India has been going on for years, and in 2019, the Delhi HC agreed to hear a petition challenging the ban on cannabis. The petition was filed by the Great Legalisation india Movement Trust.
10. Under the NDPS Act, cannabis is banned even for medicinal purposes.
Despite the laws in place, cannabis consumption is widespread in India. In fact, according to a 2018 index of the global consumption of weed, Delhi and Mumbai were two of the top ten cities with maximum weed consumption across the globe.