When and Why Marijuana Made Illegal in India and What Was its Legal Status Prior to The NDPS Act?

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is also called as weed, herb, grass and several other terms are used. Marijuana is a mixture of the dried flowers i.e., Greenish-Gray compound of cannabis Sativa. The main psychoactive chemical existing in marijuana, which is dominantly responsible for the major of the intoxicating effects, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis herb.

When Marijuana was made Illegal in India?

In 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi led-government was buckled under the economic pressure and concluded by, enactment of law called the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The NDPS Act incorporated the definition of cannabis, excluding bhang from its legal purview. According to NDPS, section 2, “cannabis” means that:

(a) Charas, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;

(b) Ganja, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and

(c) Any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink, prepared therefrom.

NDPS has banned the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers but in accordance with the law that also permitted the use of leaves and seeds, allowing the states to regulate the latter.

Why Marijuana was made illegal in India?

In 1961 under the U.S pressure in a UN convention, the declaration resulted in the putting of the drug into the category of the synthetic drug category. Opposing the texts, India denied signing the convention at that time One of the most important reasons as to why marijuana was made illegal in India and legalising the same can result in the occurrence of beyond measure loss in terms of revenue earned by the government. The government earns a sound revenue by letting the liquor and tobacco companies run their business in our country. The cartel which includes liquor and tobacco exercises a dominant influence on the government to not let a safer and cheaper competition enter the market which will eventually result from them to lose their market share and profit, affecting noxiously the revenues of the government.

In addition, government tax on weed will render in the generation of a nominal revenue which will be relatively cheaper than alcohol and tobacco.

What was the legal status prior to the NDPS Act?

The 1961 international treaty, “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs”, set cannabis in the classification of hard drugs. During negotiations, while evolving the treaty, India stood up that marijuana (another name for cannabis) was an integral part of India’s social and religious customs.  The final draft of the treaty characterized cannabis as the flowering or fruity tops of the cannabis plant from which the resin has not been separated. This permitted India to carry on the tradition of consumption of bhang during several festivals at an enormous scale. The treaty also gave India a 25-year period to cinch down on recreational drugs.


In the light of poor scientific evidence identified to the health benefits and therapeutic effects of cannabis, more progressive research involving larger samples is necessary before the government decides whether or not to legalise cannabis for medical purposes. Moreover, the existing standards of treatment must be relatively compared with, while doing further research and this should also examine public health as well as the social and economic consequences of cannabis use.

In countries where cannabis is legalised for medicinal re-purposes, the following requirements should apply:

Provision of cannabis products for treatment must be in accordance with the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, including its rules on creation, exchange and conveyance.

The cannabis products must indicate clearly ingredients used, including the substance of THC and CBD.

Cannabis must be recommended by an authorised physician/prescriber in accordance with the best accessible evidence and in sync with the country’s regulatory framework. It is recommended that treatment with affirmed customary drugs is undertaken before cannabis products are used.

Each individual physician must take liability for taking a decision regarding treatment with cannabis products, in accordance with the best accessible evidence and country-explicit registered indications.

Cannabis for clinical purposes should just be apportioned at pharmacies or by authorised dispensers as per the country’s regulatory frameworks.

Effective control measures must be put in place to block the unlawful utilization of clinical cannabis.

Public health surveillance systems must monitor the pervasiveness of cannabis use and patterns in utilization pattern are important.

This article is authored by Kumar Aditya, Second-Year, BBA. LL.B student at JEMTEC School of Law

Also Read – How To Seek Bail in a NDPS Case?

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