Is Marijuana Legal In India?

is marijuana legal in India

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India has chartered much of the course of human history, with scientific achievements and cultural marvels, distinct from many of their geographic neighbors. They have developed fine cuisines, and erected monuments drawing as much appreciation as their European counterparts. But for the marvels, there was bloodshed and imperialism foisted upon the nation. In many ways, it was imperialism that disarmed India of something of great cultural, religious, and botanical significance. See, cannabis grows natively in India, and for almost all of India’s history has been used amply. Until 1985, when US President Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs turned its eye from the US to the world, pressuring India into criminalizing cannabis. Up until 1985, marijuana was legal in India.

is marijuana legal in India

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India Marijuana Laws

While much of the world has been quick to embrace cannabis in this new era, India has not. Since the implementation of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPSA) in 1985, cannabis has remained a stringently enforced substance. Possession of “small” quantities results in either up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 rupees (roughly $130 USD), or both. 

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With amounts greater than “small” but less than “commercial” nets up to 10 years imprisonment with a fine of up to 1 lakh rupees ($1300 USD). Anything deemed a trafficable or “commercial” amount is liable for up to 20 years imprisonment (minimum 10 years). This could also come with a fine of up to 2 lakh rupees (minimum 1 lakh rupees).

So what are these quantities? Well, according to the Department of Revenue government website:

  • Small quantity = 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
  • Commercial quantity = 20 kg (44 lbs)

Implemented to stem the tide of illegal narcotics, these laws have been proven ineffectual. Of those charged under the NDPSA, only 2% of the overfall figure makes up dealers and traffickers. A total of 88% of those charged under the NDPSA are users.

Cannabis Alternative

While illegal, a form of cannabis, called Bhang, can still be acquired in some locations in India. Bhang is a paste made from ground cannabis, and added to dishes. It’s typically consumed during cultural events and holidays. As Bhang is seen to have cultural significance, it’s not as prohibited as cannabis.

Fun Fact: India is where the word ganja originates, not Jamaica

Medical Marijuana In India

While for recreational purposes, cannabis remains illegal, the future of legal medical marijuana is beginning to look bright for India. In 2017, the Indian Government allowed for the legal research of medicinal cannabis to begin. The government awarded a medicinal cannabis cultivation license to The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), collaborating with hemp producers Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO). This cultivation license has allowed the CSIR and BOHECO to produce raw medical-grade cannabis for use in the research and development of medicinal cannabis.

The most recent win in the road to legalization of medicinal cannabis was in 2019, when human trials began for medicinal marijuana treatment for terminally ill cancer patients. The patients were provided with cannabis-based treatments for pain and other symptoms synonymous with cancer. The trial was a success with participants reporting positive effects.

Does India Want Legal Marijuana?

Multiple Indian politicians have voiced strong support for the legalization of cannabis. Further, in July of 2019, The Delhi High Court viewed a petition for legalization lodged by the Great Legalisation Movement India (GLM), a group campaigning for cannabis legalization.

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More conservative quarters of India are staunchly opposed to allowing the legalization of cannabis to occur. After viewing the GLM’s petition, The Dehli High Court expressed concern of drug abuse, a common talking point among conservative politicians opposed to legalization.

India’s Future With Weed

With medicinal research and trials being conducted, and politicians comfortably outspoken in support, it is likely a matter of time before legalization is seen. With perfect conditions for industrial production, a growing global market, and the reputation as an economic powerhouse, India has every reason to seriously consider the legal marijuana market.

Zak Voss, the founder of The THC Times, brings over 15 years of experience in the cannabis industry, blending his engineering background with extensive legal and technical expertise. Renowned for his consultancy in cannabis legalities and indoor growing environments, Zak is a vital guide for navigating the complex cannabis landscape.