This Article is written by Nashita Nazneen. A, student of B. S. Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology.


Cannabisis also known as marijuana. It is agenus of the family “Cannabaceae”. Under this includes three species as Cannabis sativa, Cannabisindica, and Cannabisruderalis. The main psychoactive component is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The legality of Cannabis can be understood under the context of medicinal and recreational purposes. Though proved helpful, their production, cultivation, distribution, and consumption must be regulated as it is considered as a Schedule 1 drug causing addiction and risk of abuse.

In India, Cannabis is devoured as bhang blended in thandai frequently burned-through during Holi and Mahashivaratri. India is one of the countries that undertake illicit Cannabis cultivation and production as noted by the International Narcotics Control Board, 2019. It is quite popular that, Naxalites engage in activities of illegal production. Uttarakhand is the first state to permit the business development of hemp.

There are different treaties, for example, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988 which regulates the Cannabis-related field in an international forum. Many member states follow strict adherence to the same.

The different laws that manage possession and utilization of drugs are represented by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 hereinafter alluded to as ‘NDPS Act’, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Prohibition) Act, 2000 and different other state laws, for example, Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958 and so on

The Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB), Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), Narcotics Control Division (NCD), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Custom Authorities, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Security Forces, Border Security Force (BSF), Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) among others are the drug law enforcement agencies in India.


Cannabis was originated in the steeps of Central Asia. Through human migration during Arya invasions between 2000 and 1000 BC, it was brought to India. India developed a tradition of this psychoactive Cannabis cultivation for medicinal and religious purposes. In Atharva Veda, Cannabis is considered as a cure for illness and fighting demons.

Both Europeans and Britishers were astonished by the popularity of Cannabis in India. In the year 1798, the British Parliament passed a law to impose a tax on ganja, bhang, and charas, with the aim to restrict the use of Cannabis for good health and sanity.

Britishers left no stone unturned to criminalize Cannabis in India as the then leaders of India would receive huge taxes from the public which would be revenue for the Government. The Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894-1895 made several submissions to criminalize Cannabis.

US war on drugs was racist propaganda against African-Americans where several arrests were made for Cannabis consumption. Indian delegation in the Convention had opposed its intolerance to the social and religious consumption of Cannabis. Later, India agreed to limit the export of Indian Hemp to other countries.

Bhang was excluded from the definition of Cannabis drugs on social grounds. National Drug Dependent Treatment Centre, AIIMS in their 2019 Report stated that approximately 7.2 million people are addicted to Cannabis.


UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 encouraged the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. India authorized this law because of the worldwide pressing factor. The Parliament under Article 253 of the Constitution is empowered to legislate for the purpose of discharging obligations under international conventions and foreign treaties.

The Bill was presented in the Lok Sabha on 23rd August 1985. President assent was granted on 16th September 1985 and came into power on 14th November 1985. Thereinafter, the Act was revised multiple times i.e., in the years 1988, 2001, and 2014.

It is pertinent to mention that the 2014 amendment was a rather important one as it imposed certain relaxation on the essential Narcotic Drugssuch as Morphine, Fentanyl, and Methadone which are used for pain relief and medical care. It also imposed measures to improve the treatment of persons who are dependent on drugs. Among other changes, one such important one was the removal of the death penalty in case of repeated offenders of drug trafficking. The stretch out of punishment is 30 years.

It aimed to consolidate and amend the law relating to Narcotic Drugs, to make stringent provisions for the control and regulation of the Narcotic Drugsand Psychotropic Substances and to provide for forfeiture of property, illicit traffic and to implement the provisions of the International Conventions on Narcotic Drugsand Psychotropic Substances.

The reason for the possession of drugs is not pertinent; the quantity in possession is the key to determine the quantum of punishment under the NDPS Act.


  • To provide deterrent punishment to drug offenders.
  • To fulfill the obligations of international conventions.
  • To control the supply of drugs and psychoactive substances.
  • To bring in an effective drug law enforcement in India.
  • To provide permits and authorization for medicinal and scientific purposes.


NDPS Act defines Cannabis under Section 2 (iii) as:

  • Charas, crude or purified, is a separated resin obtained from the Cannabis plant and includes concentrated preparation or resin called liquid or hashish oil,
  • Ganja, the flowering or fruiting top that excludes seeds and leaves which do not form part of the top.
  • Any mixture or drink made out of charas or ganja.

NDPS Act banned the production and sale of Cannabis resin and flowers. Nevertheless, it permitted the use of the leaves and seeds.

Section 3 states that the Central Government has the power to add or omit the list of Psychotropic Substances.

Section 4 states that the Central Government is empowered to prevent and combat drug usage, Psychotropic Substances, and illicit traffic.

Section 6 states that in case of advisory function to the Central Government, a Narcotic Drugsand Psychotropic Substances Consultative Committee can be set up.

Section 8 prohibits any person to cultivate any coca plant, opium poppy, or Cannabis plant, produce, manufacture, possess, sell, purchase, transport, ware-house, consumption, inter-state export-import into India except for medicinal or scientific purposes.

Section 14 of the Act empowers the Central Government to make special provisions for cultivation for industrial purposes of obtaining fiber or seed or for horticultural purposes.

Section 71 empowers the Central Government to establish centers for identification, treatment, education, after-care, and rehabilitation for addicts.


Chapter 4 deals with offenses and penalties. Section 15 deals with punishment for contravention in relation to poppy straw, Section 16 deals with coca plant and coca leaves, Section 17 deals with prepared opium, Section 18 deals with opium poppy and opium, Section 19 deals with embezzlement of opium by cultivator, Section 21 deals with manufactured drugs and preparations, Section 22 deals with Psychotropic Substances, Section 23 deals with illegal import or export of Narcotic Drugsand Psychotropic Substances, Section 28 deals with punishment for the attempt, Section 30 deals with punishment for preparation among other provisions.

Section 25 states that if you allow your premises to be used for such an offense, you are liable and will be awarded the same punishment as of Section 20.

Section 20 of the Act, states the various degrees of punishment in accordance with the quantities of Cannabis plant or Cannabis:

  • Small quantity in possession – Rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10000/- or both.
  • More than small quantity in possession but less than commercial level – Rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 1 Lakhs or both.
  • Commercial quantities in possession – Rigorous imprisonment for up to 20 years, fine of Rs. 1-2 Lakhs or both.


Small and commercial quantities of various drugs are as mentioned in the tabular column below:

LSD 2 milligrams 100 milligrams
Amphetamine 2 grams 50 grams
Methadone 2 grams 50 grams
Cocaine 2 grams 100grams
Heroin 5 grams 250 grams
Morphine 5grams 250 grams
Opium 25 grams 2.5 Kilograms
Charas 100 grams 1 Kilogram
Ganja 1 Kilogram 20 Kilograms



Efforts began in 2015 to re-legalize Cannabis in India. Many Lok Sabha MPs and Union Ministers supported this cause. After the move taken by the then Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, the cabinet examined the National Drug Demand Reduction Policy, leading to the issuance of a license to grow Cannabis for research purposes to CSIR.

ShashiTharoor also expressed his support for the legalization of Cannabis stating that it is high time India embraces the health, business, and societal benefits legalization will prove.

On the contrary, in July 2019, the Delhi HC heard a petition filed by the Great Legislation Movement Trust, challenging the ban on Cannabis. They put forth the argument of grouping Cannabis with chemical drugs under the NDPS Act is arbitrary, unscientific, and unreasonable.

On February 1, 2020, India’s first medical Cannabis clinic was opened in Bangalore, ‘Vedi Wellness Centre’. They sell herbal products, oil, and tablets mostly Cannabis-based.

If the government attempts to legalize, this will add up as income which will help in economic growth and eventually their contribution to the GDP. Illegal crimes associated with the industry will significantly reduce the prevalent criminality.

In the recent turn of events after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the public has understood the drawbacks in the Hindi film industry. It took a nasty turn, with media trail, false reports, fabrication, etc. Since there is no conclusive proof of the crime, NCB has been conducting investigations to resolve the issue at hand.

On a macro level, the Cannabis industry has been prevalent in India since time immemorial. Due to its various medicinal and other benefits, this can be legalized. However, their use must be regulated and monitored by various drug enforcement agencies in India. The Juvenile Justice Act provides for the punishment when minors are found in possession as NDPS Act doesn’t take into account of minor committing a Cannabis-related crime.

Cannabis does have negative effects such as addiction, loss of mental state, and other health issues. Their use must be limited to medical purpose and a proper license must be obtained to cultivate and sell Cannabis in the market. In the present scenario, everyone must know the law as it imposes stringent penalties.  On the other hand, Law must not be misused.


  1. Adrija Roy Chowdhury, Cannabis in India: A rather long story with its highs and lows, September 12, 2020 https://indianexpress.com/article/research/cannabis-in-india-a-rather-long-story-with-its-highs-and-lows-6592020/.
  2. Is Weed or Marijuana Legal in India, MyAdvo, August 09, 2019, https://www.myadvo.in/blog/is-weed-or-marijuana-legal-in-india/amp/
  3. BhavyaBhasin, Legalization of Cannabis in India, Asian Law & Public Policy Review, December 2018, ISSN 2581 6551 (Volume 3).
  4. TNM Staff, What is legal and illegal about Weed in India? A look at NDPS Act of 1985, September 23, 2020 https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/what-legal-and-illegal-about-weed-india-look-ndps-act-1985-133726.