After a few Indian politicians backed cannabis research and legalisation of marijuana in the country, Yoga Guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda is now intensifying studies on the plant’s medicinal and industrial properties.
In a recent interview, Patanjali's CEO, Acharya Balkrishna, asked for the legalisation of marijuana in India;
''In ayurveda, since ancient times, parts of cannabis [hemp], for instance, have been used for medicinal purposes. So, we are looking at various formulations. We should ponder over the benefits and positive uses of the cannabis plant," Balkrishna said, in his interview with Quartz.
When did marijuana become illegal in India?
Cannabis has been used in various forms in India since time immemorial. However, after attempts at criminalising cannabis were first made in British India, in the late 19th century, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985 was enacted to ban the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers. Though, the use of its leaves and flowers were permitted, allowing states to regulate its consumption.
According to Department of Revenue, Government of India, cultivation of cannabis without license can lead to ''rigorous imprisonment--up to 10 years--and fine up to one lakh rupees.''
The website further mentions that the ''production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, import inter-state, export inter-state or use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances'' carries the penalty of ''rigorous imprisonment up to six months or fine up to Rs 10,000 or both [for small quantity].'' Again, ''more than small quantity but less than commercial quantity'' can lead to ''rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and fine up to Rs one lakh.'' A commercial quantity of the same, on the other hand, will involve ''rigorous imprisonment 10 to 20 years and fine up to one to two lakh rupees.''
However, Balkrishna is clearly quite disappointed with the criminalisation of marijuana. Suggesting why it should be legalised in the country, he added, ''By criminalising marijuana, we are denying a full-fledged business opportunity to our people,'' while speaking at a TEDx event in January 2018, held in Panchkula.
While Balkrishna did advocate the use of marijuana, he clarified that the plant will be cleansed of its intoxicating property before use. ''Research is already on. It has been found that much of it (cannabis plant) is good for health. But, toxic parts, like THC, need to be removed from cannabis oil," he said.