Updated on April 18, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
While India has legalized medical marijuana research, it still outlaws many cannabis-related activities. When a country has so many legal gray areas, it can be difficult to tell what you can and can’t do. As a current or aspiring patient, you should understand your rights.
Until 1985, marijuana was legal in India — it’s actually thanks to American influence that they made it illegal. When Ronald Regan started his “War on Drugs,” other nations followed suit, including India. In response to this international wave, they created the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS). This act banned activities related to government-defined “narcotics” like cannabis.
However, there could be hope for people who want to become medical marijuana patients. In late 2017, Member of Parliament Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi proposed a bill that would legalize and regulate cannabis. We have yet to see how Parliament will handle this proposal.
Since cannabis is banned in India, they have no medical marijuana program. However, they have permitted potential steps towards legal cannabis medicine.
In the summer of 2017, Maneka Gandhi, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development voiced her support for legal medical marijuana. A week later, the Indian government issued the first-ever medical cannabis cultivation license. The permit went to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, who intended to collaborate with The Bombay Hemp Company.
Although India’s cannabis medicine is still in research and development, this collaboration could pave the way for legal marijuana medicine in the country.
India takes marijuana offenses very seriously and implements legal penalties accordingly. The NDPS established harsh punishments for people who perform any of the following cannabis-related actions:
The exact sentence depends on the amount of marijuana involved. A small quantity can merit up to six months in prison and a 10,000-rupee fine. Moderate amounts can warrant up to 10 years of imprisonment and one lakh rupees. People who commit a crime with a commercial quantity of cannabis can get 10 to 20 years in prison and between one and two lakh rupees.
Since India only allows medical marijuana research for two organizations, cannabis is highly controlled in any other situation. Patients looking for a natural medication option can’t legally use cannabis to medicate. Preventing medicinal cannabis use limits patients’ choices.
As Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi points out, the cannabis laws in India end up punishing users instead of criminal organizations. While 88% of arrests under NDPS are regarding benign marijuana use, only 2% involve traffickers. Even though the NDPS is meant to prevent malicious drug use, it instead penalizes the common person.
Indians who want to medicate with cannabis have no legal protections. Currently, the only people who receive any cannabis-related protections are the two organizations that can conduct medical marijuana-related research.
If India starts a medical marijuana program, they will hopefully put protections in place for its members. Or, if they choose to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis medicine like a pharmaceutical, patients can benefit from the safety of a prescription. No matter how the country establishes medical marijuana regulations, they need to keep the safety of patients in mind.
As you can see, India is at a turning point in its medical marijuana history. Regulations could change at any time in favor or against aspiring patients. To learn more about cannabis legislation in countries throughout the world, check out our news and updates blog.