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What is the news?
The arrest and custodial interrogation of celebrity attendees of a cruise party has reopened the debate over criminalisation of cannabis.
What is the status of cannabis regulation in India?
India criminalised cannabis under American pressure in 1985 through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
As per GoI surveys, even after three decades of criminalization of cannabis, ganja and charas usage remains high (1.3 crore consumers, and 2.2 crore for bhang).
America and many countries are now decriminalizing cannabis for medical or recreational use. But India refuses to change its stance regarding this.
What is the punishment under NDPS Act in case of using cannabis?
– NDPS Act prescribes up to one-year rigorous imprisonment for those involved in cannabis transactions of “small quantity”.
– 1-10 years for “quantity lesser than commercial quantity but greater than small quantity” and
– 10-20 years for “commercial quantity”.
What is the way forward?
Instead of following the above punishment procedure, NDPS must evolve a three-tier gradation of offences.
– Cannabis should be decriminalized.
– Those involved in manufacture, trafficking and supply of hard drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine etc must face the most prohibitive punishment.
– Those consuming these banned substances should be tried under civil law, not criminal law – a steep fine would be an appropriate punishment.
This will allow anti-narcotics authorities to concentrate on supply chains that feed the Indian underground narcotics market and the main players in that market. Raiding parties will not give us final result. Anti-narcotics investigators should be the first ones to ask for such a change in law and priorities as their resources are wasted going after small time users.
Source: This post is based on the article “Some dope on law: Decriminalise cannabis, rework NDPS Act, for investigative focus on hard drugs supply ” published in The Times of India on 6th October 2021.