Should cannabis be legalised? Yes, no, maybe

Pressure is mounting on the government to allow commercial cultivation of non-narcotics cannabis on the pattern of Uttarakhand and a fresh debate has been triggered over legalising its cultivation for medicinal and industrial use and the adverse fallout of drug abuse.

Should cannabis be legalised? Yes, no, maybe

Cannabis plants being destroyed from fields at a village in Mandi district. Photo: Jai Kumar

ROBINSINGH@TRIBUNE.COM

Bhanu P Lohumi

Pressure is mounting on the government to allow commercial cultivation of non-narcotics cannabis on the pattern of Uttarakhand and a fresh debate has been triggered over legalising its cultivation for medicinal and industrial use and the adverse fallout of drug abuse. 

Uttarakhand has tied up with a consortium of five companies called Indian Industrial Hemp Association to cultivate cannabis with less than 0.5 per cent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for making high-quality fibre. Due to the low THC content, the fibre cannot be used as a psychotropic drug and the demand for replicating the model in Himachal has gained momentum. 

No doubt it would reduce the illicit cultivation of cannabis, but the possibility of drug mafia flourishing under the garb of legal cultivation cannot be ruled out and a stringent regulatory mechanism in place would be the prerequisite for going ahead.

Maheshwar Singh, a former BJP MP and MLA, and Sunder Singh, sitting Congress MLA from Kullu, have written to the government to allow the legal cultivation of cannabis under strict regulatory control and locals are also backing the move.

Sunder Singh said he would raise this issue during the winter session of the Vidhan Sabha and has given notice for discussing the issue so that the views of the members could be known. 

The issue has occupied a centre stage after Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the matter would be examined legally and views of Health Minister, senior Congress and CPM leaders would be sought. “No concrete proposal has come so far and all aspects would be considered and we will look into it when the matter comes up for discussion,” says Health Minister Vipin Parmar. 

‘Handloom industry 

can flourish’ 

Malana villagers are already making clothes and wearing chappals, jackets, belts, bags and pants manufactured in the village handloom units from cannabis plants grown in wild. 

“There is a small segment of people (about 4 to 5 per cent), engaged in making products from fibre of cannabis plants and if legalised, the handloom industry can usher in a new era of prosperity in Kullu and Mandi districts,” says Bhagi Ram, pradhan of Malana village (internationally known for Malana Cream). 

“Cannabis seeds are a part of traditional pahari cuisine, while hash oil is very useful for cancer treatment and cosmetic industries. The creams and disposal glasses prepared from plant root and fibre can be set up in far-flung remote areas, generating employment for youth,” he said. 

“The clothes made from cannabis are very popular, especially in foreign countries, and fetch returns almost equivalent to bhang (charas). When commercial cultivation will be legalised and people will get handsome returns, why will they indulge in its illicit cultivation? asks Mela Ram, a Malana resident. 

“If the government sees economic viability and comes forward to set up industries, the fibre and roots can be used in the manufacturing of cosmetic creams and disposable glasses and also generate employment in far-flung remote areas,” he said.

Drive to destroy 

cannabis on

“The state government has launched a sustained drive to destroy cannabis plantation and illicit cannabis crop has been destroyed from 21,534.06 bighas in the past 10 months. On the one hand, a massive drive has been launched for uprooting cannabis plantations, on the other, locals and politicians are favouring the legalisation of cannabis cultivation,” said a social activist working with an NGO. 

“After legalisation of cannabis cultivation, it would be difficult to keep a tight rein on the elements indulging in illicit cultivation,” says OP Sharma, member, Institute of Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA) and former Superintendent of Narcotics Control Bureau (Chandigarh division), who has intensively worked in the focused area and exposed the involvement of foreign nationals in drug trade and hybrid cultivation. 

“With no compromise on drug prevalence and very harsh measures to contain drug abuse, anything which is positive could be done, but the possibility of diversion of drugs cannot be ruled out,” says Sharma, stressing that the road map for drug prevention should be ready and put in public domain. 

Initiatives taken by cops

The drive against drug abuse is continuing with undiminished intensity as Nasha Nivaran Samitis have been constituted at police-station level to keep a vigil on drug mafia. As a result, 11 cases have been registered under the NDPS Act through information from these samitis, said SR Mardi, Director General of Police. 

As many as 1,689 schools and 61 colleges have been covered to raise awareness and a total of 2,22,744 school students and 9,051 college students were made aware about drug abuse, he said, adding that 92,704 persons in 1,806 panchayats, 13,351 persons in 931 mahila mandals and 3,319 persons under 286 SHGs were also covered under the campaign. 

Rise in NDPS cases 

There has been significant increase in the number of cases registered under the NDPS (Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act and 1,130 cases were registered up to October 30 this year against 880 cases registered in 2017. Similarly, 416.061-kg charas, 7.003-kg heroin and 315.10-gm smack was recovered this year, compared to 223.883-kg charas, 3.302-gm heroin and 249.08-gm smack recovered in 2017. As many as 1,451 persons were arrested up to October 31 this year, as compared to 1,062 last year. 

New trends

Besides cannabis, opium, cough syrups and tablets, chemical drugs have also made inroads into Himachal and high priced synthetic drugs including cocaine, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) commonly known as ecstasy and liquid lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are available in the state and the latest entry is ‘chitta’.

High-end drugs, especially mood-changing, are in great demand among foreigners and domestic tourists besides locals in Manali, Shimla and Dharamsala. Many countries have legalised cannabis cultivation to act as a deterrent against chemical and other dangerous drugs, but we should not forget that charas is the gateway drug for psychotropic drugs like ‘chitta’, as addicts have an urge to try new drugs, opine experts. 

Emergence of 

Malana cream

The cultivation of cannabis was banned in India in 1985, but at that time the smuggling of cannabis (charas) had not assumed alarming proportions and the illegal cultivation and smuggling of charas flourished during the past three decades. The high quality cannabis known as “Malana cream” became an internationally known narcotic drug and a large number of foreigners are attracted to Kullu district and Malana is their favourite destination.


Hemp uses

  • Health benefits of hemp seed oil: Reducing pain and anxiety; helps in sleep disorders; good for healthy skin, hair, heart and nails; provides nutrition to brain; balances hormones; supports immune system; improves mood
  • Industrial uses of hemp: Clothing; disposable glasses; food and beverages; paper; building supplies and fuel

Factfile

  • 315 villages (approx) and over 500 panchayats in the state are directly or indirectly involved in opium and cannabis cultivation, which also forms a sizable chunk of vote bank
  • 95% cultivation at present is on forest and revenue land

 Cases registered under NDPS Act 

Year           Cases registered Persons arrested

Indians Foreigners 

2007 233 285 10 

2008  374 419 12

2009 473 548 17

2010 596 717 17

2011 570 507 3

2012 513 565 21

2013 531 592 1

2014 644 740 15

2015 622 723 6

2016 929 1079 6

2017 1010 1205 16 

2018 till Oct 31 1130 1451 10

(Source Police Department) 

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