What is legal and illegal about weed in India?

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Weed is a substance that goes by many names. Also called marijuana, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms, it is a greenish-grey mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa.

The convenience of a plant like that is that it is versatile in its usage. Marijuana can be used to brew tea. When it is sold or for medicinal purposes, it is frequently mixed into foods (edibles) such as brownies, cookies, or candies. Vaporizers are also increasingly used to consume marijuana. Some people smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints; in pipes, water pipes (called bongs), or in blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps).

Stronger forms of marijuana include sinsemilla (from specially tended female plants) and concentrated resins containing high doses of marijuana’s active ingredients, including honey like hash oil, waxy budder, and hard amberlike shatter.

But what does the Indian law say about the consumption of this versatile drug? The team at Rahul Dev are here to help you understand.

The Centre’s law around cannabis and its extracts in India can be found in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (though there are various states that have their own laws around cannabis as well). The law prohibits and criminalises the sale, possession, transportation and cultivation of cannabis in certain forms in India. The NDPS Act, when it comes to cannabis, states that it includes:

  • Charas, which is “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”.
  • Ganja, “the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops)”
  • And “any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom”.

Notably, the Act specifically prohibits the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers, while the use of seeds and leaves is allowed in a specified manner.

Apart from the NDPS Act, states have the power to draft their own laws on cannabis. Section 10 of the NDPS Act allows states to permit and regulate “the cultivation of any cannabis plant, production, manufacture, possession, transport, import inter-State, export inter-State, sale, purchase consumption or use of cannabis (excluding charas)”.

Legal proceedings against inappropriate use of Weed:

Section 20 of the NDPS Act talks about the punishment involved in case you contravene the provisions mentioned above:

  • For contravention involving a small quantity, there is rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to six months or a fine that may extend to Rs 10,000, or both.
  • If it involves a quantity less than commercial quantity but greater than a small quantity, rigorous imprisonment may extend to 10 years with a fine that may extend to Rs 1 lakh
  • For cases involving commercial quantities, rigorous imprisonment will not be less than 10 years, but may extend to 20 years. A fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh (which can be extended to two lakhs) may also be levied.

If these are the illegal aspects of weed, then what constitutes as legal? That is where the bhang form of weed comes into play.

Bhang, which is made using the leaves of the cannabis plant, has close ties to the worship of Shiva in Hinduism. It is also common to the of festival Holi across India in the form of a drink called ‘thandai’.

Is it legal? Bhang was left out from the definition of “cannabis” as per the Act. NDPS permitted the use of the leaves and seeds, allowing the states to regulate the latter. Cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes such as making industrial hemp or for horticultural use is legal in India. The NDPS recognizes cannabis as a source of biomass, fibre, and high-value oil. The Government of India encourages research and cultivation of cannabis with low THC content.

This presents an interesting situation. As per the present situation and the laws specified under the Act, weed is illegal but bhang is legal (in “specified quantities”). Want to understand more. Talk to the team at Rahul Dev, who’ve done their research on this topic!

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