Updated on April 18, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
India has recently authorized two organizations to research cannabis for medical purposes. Also, many Indian government officials have expressed their support for legal medical marijuana. The country is clearly at a turning point in its history. So, how will these changes affect patients who want to qualify for cannabis medicine?
At the time of writing, using cannabis is illegal in India — the country banned it in 1985 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS). Just about any marijuana-related activity can put you in jail for months or even years. Fines for cannabis offenses range from 10,000 rupees to two lakhs.
If India creates a state-run medical marijuana program, patients with commonly-researched conditions will likely qualify. Health issues such as cancer, chronic pain and severe nausea have some of the most extensive data related to cannabis medicine.
India would have plenty of ideas to borrow from other nations regarding patient registration. Some countries, like the United States, require paperwork and a doctor’s visit. Their procedures usually involve getting an evaluation from a physician. Then, the patient submits an application including some personal information.
On the other hand, India may not implement an official program at all. Other countries simplify the process by handling cannabis medicine like a prescription pharmaceutical. The doctor prescribes the type of medication the patient needs, and then the patient can obtain it at a pharmacy.
So, which approach is India more likely to take if they legalize? It’s difficult to tell. While the NDPS has shaped the country’s opinion on cannabis, the plant also serves as an important aspect of Indian culture. The nature of India’s future medicinal cannabis laws will depend on opinions from both the public and government officials.
The only people in India who have legal access to medical marijuana are the two organizations the government has permitted to conduct research on it. That leaves the rest of India without the ability to medicate legally with cannabis. If the Indian government legalizes marijuana medicine, where would patients go to obtain it?
India could establish certified organizations that exclusively handle and distribute medical marijuana. Countries such as Canada and the United States have dedicated providers of cannabis medicine. While the United States has dispensaries that function like pharmacies or retail stores, Canada has producers that directly work with the patient.
But, India could also simply categorize medicinal cannabis as a prescription drug. In addition to letting patients skip an application, having doctors prescribe marijuana would allow it to be available in pharmacies. They could allow only certain pharmacies to handle it, or perhaps any pharmacy would be able to fill prescriptions for cannabis medicine.
Indians who take cannabis medicine for their health issues face legal persecution instead of protection. The NDPS has a lengthy list of cannabis-related activities that can make someone go to jail or get a fine. Not only are use and possession illegal, but so are actions like transporting and growing.
Patients looking to find natural relief could benefit from bhang, a traditional cannabis paste that goes around legal loopholes. Technically, as long as the cannabis comes from the wild, using bhang is legal. Every state has unique regulations on bhang, so investigate your local legislation first.
Education about medical marijuana can not only help you if medical marijuana becomes legal, but it can also inform advocacy. Browse our resource library to learn the ins and outs of cannabis, or use our condition pages to get detailed information about how marijuana can treat your health issues.