Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the world. Cannabis is allegedly a narcotic in India that enables users to experience “ecstasy in the original sense of the word.” It has been consumed and valued for generations in India. However, the sale, consumption, manufacture, and transportation of Cannabis became forbidden in the nation in 1986 after the enactment of strict narcotic laws. India has still not legalised this drug, despite many other nations worldwide doing so. This blog explores whether it’s time for India to decriminalise cannabis or not given its widespread use and long history in our nation.


The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985[1] governs cannabis laws in India.

Section 8 of the Act makes it illegal to cultivate any cannabis plant for purposes other than medical and scientific research.

The cannabis plant has been defined in the Act as any plant of the genus cannabis[2]. The NDPS Act defines Cannabis (hemp)[3] as a narcotic drug based on the parts of the plant that come under its purview. Cannabis (hemp) also includes Charas, which is cannabis plant resin, and Ganja, which is cannabis plant flowering or fruiting tops.

Section 8 of the Act makes it illegal to cultivate any cannabis plant for purposes other than medical and scientific research[4].

The Act permits the use of cannabis seeds, stems, and leaves, but prohibits the sale and consumption of cannabis resin (Charas) and flowers (Ganja). As a result, bhang is legal while ganja and charas remain illegal.

Although the NDPS allows for the use of bhang, various states have laws that prohibit or limit its use. Sections 10 and 14[5] of the Act grant the state government discretion in regulating, manufacturing, and possessing the plant.

In some states, only authorised dealers are permitted to sell bhang. Some states also limit the amount of marijuana that one person can carry and the minimum age of the buyer[6]. The sale, purchase, possession, and consumption of bhang and ganja are illegal in the state of Assam[7].

The manufacture, possession, and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances without a licence is prohibited in the state of Maharashtra[8]. Ganja and Bhang are considered intoxicating drugs in the state of Karnataka, and their production, possession, and consumption are all prohibited, with the exception of medicinal purposes[9]. The state of Gujarat in the year 2017 legalised bhang by removing it from the list of “intoxicating drugs”. It was once believed that Bhang was only consumed as Lord Shiva’s prasad. The state government has received complaints about the misapplication of the prohibition act against those found in possession of bhang. As a result, the government has decided to exempt bhang from the scope of the Gujarat Prohibition Amendment Act in light of public sentiment. Bhang is not as intoxicating as Ganja[10].” Thus, there is no complete ban on the use of Cannabis since the plant is used in other forms such as Bhang in some states.


Due to its therapeutic uses, cannabis has already been legalised in several nations throughout the world. Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalise cannabis in the year 2013. Cannabis cultivation, sale, and use are all illegal under US federal law. However, in the last decade, 18 states, including California and the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, have all legalised recreational cannabis use. After Uruguay, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalise cannabis in 2018. Cannabis use for recreational purposes is permitted. The legal limit in Canada is 30 grammes of personal possession and four plants per household[11]. In the same year 2018, South Africa allowed Adult Cannabis usage. Mexico also recently legalised cannabis in the year 2021. Although cannabis is prohibited in the Netherlands, personal usage is not considered a crime. In the Netherlands, coffee shops are allowed to sell marijuana as long as specific restrictions are followed. As a result, there are limitations on cannabis use in the country.


Cannabis has a long history in India that is cloaked in legends and religion. Cannabis was first mentioned in the Vedas or sacred Hindu texts. Between 2000 and 1400 B.C., these scriptures were perhaps compiled. According to The Vedas, cannabis was one of five sacred plants, and its leaves housed a guardian angel. The Vedas describe cannabis as a source of happiness, joy, and liberation. The Atharvaveda, the fourth book of the Vedas, contains the oldest mention of cannabis and lists it as one of the “five kingdoms of herbs that liberate us from anxiety.” Cannabis was referred to as the “meal of the gods” in the 10th century. The worship ceremony for Lord Shiva also makes use of it. Legend has it that Lord Shiva once found refuge from the scorching heat under a towering cannabis plant. He chewed on some of its leaves out of curiosity and became so invigorated that he started using it. In India, bhang has stood for celebration and friendliness for ages. On the Holi Festival, it is mandatory to consume Thandai, which is made of bhang. Thus, we can say that Cannabis is an integral part of Indian Culture.


The widespread usage of cannabis products in India, along with its cultural heritage, current discourse, and international precedents, support decriminalisation strongly. All citizens could gain greatly from the legalisation of cannabis. Less crime and a better legal system will benefit everyone if properly implemented. Non-governmental organisations have been calling louder and louder in recent years for the legalisation of cannabis use for recreational purposes, as other nations have done. One such petition was filed in 2019 by the Great Legalization Movement India Trust, a Bengaluru-based organisation, and the Delhi High Court requested the government’s position on it. The group wants cannabis to be removed from the NDPS Act. The organization thinks that among other things, legalising marijuana can help to combat stress, increase human concentration, alleviate medical issues, and give stable agricultural revenues. Cannabis, according to the organisation, is an integral part of the country’s cultural fabric, and criminalization leads to unnecessary harassment and stigma.

Cannabis is widely grown in India’s various districts. It is regarded as a medicinal plant that has aided humans and animals for centuries. The cannabis plant has a long history of treating several diseases such as epilepsy, glaucoma and even cancer. According to a new study, cannabis may even aid in the treatment of the Covid virus. Legalizing and regulating marijuana will allow the government to generate enormous amounts of income. Thus, it is also a way of raising taxes for the state. Thus, all citizens could gain greatly from the legalisation of cannabis. Less crime and a better legal system will benefit everyone if properly implemented.

Author(s) Name: Arsheya Chaudhry (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi)


[1] Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

[2] Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, s. 2(IV).

[3] Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, s. 2(III)

[4] Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, s. 8

[5] Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, Ss. 10, 14

[6] Sameer, Legalization of cannabis in India Times of India Blog (2020), (last visited Jan 11, 2023).

[7] The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958.

[8] Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949, s. 66(1)(b)

[9] The Karnataka Prohibition Act, 1961.

[10] Gujarat further tightens prohibition, February 23, 2017, (last visited Jan 11, 2023).

[11] NDTV, (Last visited January 11, 2023).

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