Legalization of Marijuana- India, USA and UK – A Case Study

By Ezeifekwuaba Tochukwu Benedict


The intake of Marijuana as well as other Cannabis Derivatives such as the Bhang can be traced far back to hundreds of decades with major roots on the Indian Culture and Legislation. From the Initial, the indulgence of the Baul Singers of the Bengal to Festival of Holi; the intake of Marijuana has rarely and hardly been a deviant social attitude and behavior in the Society of India. In 1985, Marijuana including other Cannabis derivative was lawfully sold in the Nation through Legalized retail shops.

Concepts of Cannabis

It can also be termed and known as Marijuana (from the Mexican Spanish Marihuana) which the other names such as hemps, weeds, Ganga, hashish and many more entails preparation of the Cannabis Plant for Medicine and Psychoactive Drug. The Cannabis has more than 400 street names among which Ganja, hashish, pot, weed, grass and many more are the common ones. Marijuana comprises of THC (Delta-9-Tetrahdro Cannabinol) which is the major and a dangerous chemical in Marijuana.

What are the India Laws in regards to Marijuana?

It is very necessary and essential that we evaluate and analyze one of the legislations in details in regards to drugs. Thus, in this aspect, we critically evaluated and examined the Narcotic Drugs and the Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 which experience and face severe social challenge; Drug Trafficking. Also, this Special and Particular Act is always before the courts so regularly and it has a vast number of conflicting verdicts. In regards to the Narcotic Drugs and the Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the Statutory Control and dominance over the Narcotic Drugs was expressed and emphasized in India through the number of the State and the Central Enactments. The Principal and Major Central Act of 1930 was enacted over a long period of time

Cannabis as can be referred as “Hemp”, Cannabis as Charas is classified and categorized as resin in any form; whether purified or crude; gotten and derived from the Cannabis Plant and it also entails concentrated preparations and resins referred and known as liquid hashish or hashish oil and ganja which entails the fruiting and the flowering tops of the Cannabis Plant (excluding the leaves and also the seeds when not accompanied by the tops) by any name they may be designated, referred or known and any combination with or without any of the Natural Material of any of the emphasized and stated form of Cannabis as well as any of the Prepared Drink.

Also; Section 8 emphasizes that no person must cultivate poppy opium or any cannabis plant with an exemption for scientific and medical purposes in the way it is provided by the Provisions of this Act. The Scientific Research and the Medical Use of Marijuana are therefore lawful in India as per this section; the recreational application is so unlawful.

PIT NDPS Act, 1988

The Deterrent Penal Provisions of the 1985 NDPS Act including other Preventive, administrative and legislative measures were discovered inadequate to regulate the unlawful movement and traffic in drugs. Therefore; it was felt that preventive detention legislation must be enacted with a perspective to properly immobilize individuals involved in any form of unlawful traffic of psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs. To attain this objective; the president promulgated the restriction of the unlawful traffic in psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs ordinance (United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) on the 4th of July 19881 in regard to the SAARC Convention and UN Convention of 1988

What are the International legislations in regard to Cannabis In other Nations?

United States of America (USA)

The Sale, Use and the Possession of Cannabis in the United States (US) are unlawful under the Federal Legislation (Cannabis Justice Office, grant making office, proposed under Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019) although some of the States (Alaska Marijuana Control Board (MCB), California Bureau of Cannabis Control, San Francisco Office of Cannabis, Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division Marijuana Enforcement (MED), Illinois – Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer, Maine Office of Marijuana Policy, Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, Nevada Department of Taxation, Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board) have ensured the exclusions of Medical Cannabis Usage and also decriminalized the Non Medical Cannabis Usage. In two States; Washington and Colorado, the possession and a sale of marijuana is lawful for both non Medical and Medical Usage2

In regard to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, Marijuana is categorized as Schedule 1 drugs as it claims; it has a maximum capacity for abuse and no acceptable medical applications. The Stand of the Federal Government becomes vivid in Raich vs. Gonsdves3, where it was held that the United States Constitution permitted the Federal Governments to restrict the application of Cannabis and for Medical purpose because the Federal Legislation is supreme and it trumps the State Legislation

United Kingdom

The Medicines Act (1968), the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and the Psychoactive Substances Act (2016) proscribes Cannabis as unlawful to distribute, grow and possess and sell in the United Kingdom without the necessary licenses. It is a Class B Drug4 as it has penalties for illegalized dealings, unlicensed trafficking, an unlimited fine, 14 years prison or both including unlicensed production

The maximum penalty for sanctioned and unauthorized possession is five years in prison5. In 2000, the then Home Secretary recognized Cannabis as grade C drug removing and prohibiting the threat to arrest for the possession and not for distribution6. The re-categorization was done to concentrate attention towards more dangerous and hazardous Markets7 Although; this implication was overturned in 2008 when Cannabis was classified as Class B Drug again, the wind stands to blow in the other paths when in 2012, it was emphasized by the House of Common that Cannabis will be re-categorized and re-classified from Class B to Class C and that the Government of 2008 made an inappropriate decision.

Why India must Legalize Marijuana

A study carried out by the Institute of Medicine, Washington indicated that there is minimal proof that the decriminalization of the use of Marijuana actually results in a substantial rise in the use of Marijuana8. The absence of decriminalization might have promoted the use of drugs that are also more harmful than Marijuana9. Decriminalization for private purpose has not resulted in a tremendous rise in the level of usage when compared to the nations that follow a maximum repressive policy. The use of cannabis among young individuals has significantly fallen since its controversial reclassification in 2004 in regard to the Present British Crime Survey Statistics. The Home Office Statistics indicated the proportion of 16 to 24 years old that had used the Cannabis for the past year had declined 10. The United States has long ago ensured a hard line drug policy, backing up solely foreign agreements which enforce drug prohibition and improving on its Citizens some of the global toughest penalties for drug sales and possessions.

Suggestions and Recommendations

From the above, it can be emphasized that the author firmly supports the legalization of Marijuana in India. However an absolute power results in absolute corruption; absolute liberalization must not be enforced. India needs to legalize Marijuana but must impose the regulations over it in order to regulate the level of usage.

The recommendations for regulations entail the following:

–          The Central Government needs to fix the lawful age for the recreational application of Marijuana at 21 years and above only

–          The Commercial Production of Marijuana will be restricted to solely licensed producers

–          The State Government need to Mandate it for the retail stores to allow a licensed client Cards

–          The State Government needs to cancel the retail sale and revoke the license of the distribution of the points above if they are not followed

–          The State Government can also provide Marijuana at a minimal quantity in other to regulate and control consumption

–         The Retail Stores must be permitted to sell a maximum of 5 grams of Marijuana per individual that are above 21 years that holds a licensed customer card.

–          It is necessary that the Card must be connected with an adhar Card as it is a unique identification card. The interconnecting would act as an effective mode of controlling quantum of change.

–          Strict limits need to be put for the advertising, commercialization including the mass marketing of the product.

–          The Sale of Produce from these licensed manufacturers must be regulated by the State Government by establishing licensed retail stores11

–          The Potency and the Quality Control Marijuana must be severely regulated by the State and the product potency is made available to the final consumers and

–          This Card must be handled like a Book Keeping System as it would account for the number of purchased Marijuana by the Individual a day


The marijuana root is intensely spread throughout the ancient India. Since 2000-1400 BC to the 1980’s, Marijuana was lawfully sold even at normal shops and extensively used by individuals, although, there are severe setbacks with the enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs and the Psychotropic Substance Act of 1985 which has made the use of Marijuana unlawful in India.

The legalization of Marijuana will actually save efforts and time of the Indian Government on a petty drug such as Marijuana as it could be utilized effectively towards more dangerous, hazardous and serious drugs such as cocaine, heroin, etc.

It is high time for India in considering the age tradition of applying Cannabis offspring (Bhang) for worshipping goddess and gods and also for recreational purpose and personal pleasure; it must set an example being the subcontinent and legalize marijuana. Research Studies across the globe indicates that moderate use of Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco; it makes a bit sense to uphold the prohibition on its recreational purpose. Also; excess intake of Marijuana can be detrimental. But that is not factual for Alcohol banning which is viewed as appropriate. The Legalization of Marijuana with an enlightened drug policy restricts the dissemination of more hazardous intoxicants and results towards a more new India.

1Ibid 9; pg3

2‘Legalization of Marijuana could be short lived’ Reuters U.S Edition (2012-11-07), Retrieved on 04/02/2013 

3Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)

4Drug Wise. (2017). promoting evidence based information on drugs, alcohol and tobacco, retrieved from:

5 “Drug Legislations”, United Kingdom Home Office, 2013

6Ellson Sarah & Khoury Aymen. (2020). ten things you need to know about medicinal cannabis in the UK, retrieved from:

7The Police Foundation. 1999. Drugs and the Law: Report of the independent inquiry into The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. (2013)

8National Academies of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM). 1999. Medicine and Marijuana: Evaluating the Science Base. National Academy Press: Washington, D.C., 102

9 K. Models. 1993. The effect of marijuana decriminalization on hospital emergency room episodes: 1975-1978. Journal of the American Statistical Association 88: 737-747, as cited by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine in Marijuana and Medicine: Evaluating the Science Base 

10Ibid 45; pg11

11Working to reform Marijuana Laws,, 2013

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