After three failed attempts by the British Crown in India to ban cannabis over the course of the nineteenth century, the British commissioned a study on the damaging potential of cannabis. The 1894 report of the “Indian Hemp Drugs Commission” stated that:
Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use practically produces no ill effects … The large number of witnesses of all classes who professed never to have seen these effects, the vague statements made by many who professed to have observed them, the very few witnesses who could so recall a case as to give any definite account of it, and the manner in which a large proportion of these cases broke down on the first attempt to examine them, are facts which combine to show most clearly how little injury society has hitherto sustained from hemp drugs.
As a result of India’s independence in 1950 and the historic role of cannabis in the region, the Indian delegation opposed the classification of cannabis as a hard drug in the UN’s Single Convention in 1961.
In addition, the UN also granted India a 25-year transition period to wipe out the recreational use of cannabis. Due to this negotiated term, the possession of cannabis flowers and hashish have been punishable according to the Indian Narcotics Act since 1985.
Because of the tradition during Holi, a religious event in February and March where common bhang (cannabis) consumption is practiced ritually by followers of the goddess Shiva, and because it is also part of many Ayurvedic medicinal preparations, the holy drink and its production were excluded from the narcotics act. Although buds as we know them fall under the Narcotics Act, state-licensed bhang stores are permitted to grow cannabis and process the dried seeds, leaves and buds together with fruits, herbs, and other ingredients for Bhang-paste.
Due to cannabis’ historical role, cultural value and omnipresence in some regions, there is hardly a country where the prohibition of cannabis is so contrary to the national tradition as in India. Thus, a legalization movement, which would be quite influential with the neighboring countries, could be established on the subcontinent.
The “Great Legalization Movement” has already organized several Medical Marijuana conferences and invited Rick Simpson to speak in India. Last month, Rising India Inc. declared their intention to invest in the development of medical cannabis products as the first Indian company to do so.
Despite the 1985 ban of recreational and medical cannabis, due to the traditional use as a recreational drug and as a medicine, the forbidden plant will likely survive a fourth attempt of its prohibition within the last 200 years. As soon as a legal frameworks is available to open up new opportunities, India, a country with over one billion inhabitants and a thousand-year-old cannabis culture, will become one of the most important places for legal cannabis culture and the international cannabis market.
'Never try to teach a pig to sing, you waste your time and you annoy the pig.'Mark Twain