The arrest of 28-year old Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty by India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) over her purchase of a mere 59 grams of cannabis has ignited a high-decibel campaign by millennials to legalise marijuana in the nation. Rhea, currently in Mumbai's Byculla Jail, is being investigated for purchasing and sharing her marijuana with her late boyfriend, whose alleged suicide has been linked with depression.
India banned the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in 1985, thanks to the country's sixth prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, for all purposes except medical research. The ban is thought to have been imposed under the influence of American lawmakers who accuse India of allowing the practice of “smoking up” cannabis, or consuming its solid version, “bhang”, a part of its lifestyle for millennia.
While tens of thousands of Indian youth anonymously sign petitions to legalize marijuana, particularly after the Sushant-Rhea row, several openly speak of the shift on social networking platforms.
#RheaChakraborty Arrested for marijuana in a nation where Hinduism and cannabis are intertwined. Scriptures say cannabis grew when the elixir of life (Amrita) touched ground. It’s consumed religiously to cleanse at major Hindu festivals & ayurvedics noted medicinal benefits.🤦🏻♀️— feroshus_ (@feroshus_) September 8, 2020
Damn, the amount of celebration about Rhea's arrest. Do people realise that it's NOT on charges of murder and money laundering?— Andre Borges (@borges) September 8, 2020
Rhea's been arrested on something that most of Bombay would be in jail for. Smoking weed.
Before it becomes too mainstream to harass someone with a marijuana case, India should legalize it! I know it's a huge debate, but unless it's totally banned, how long you'll keep booking people for it?— Shubham Chakrawar (@vividshubham) September 8, 2020
Rhea drug case is going to set a dangerous precedent. #RheaChakraborty
Weed is not really a drug and not a chemical one in any way! It should not be put in the same category as psychedelics and hard drugs!— Who? (@_jamjamjammy_) September 8, 2020
Smoking pot shouldn't be a crime!
India needs to wake up and legalize marijuana so we can be happy and high#LegalizeIt #decriminalize
Sputnik got in touch with the administrator of a pro-marijuana Instagram page with over 8,000 followers to better understand the sentiments people have toward the herb.
“The demand for legalisation is now gaining momentum for various reasons. People want to enjoy cannabis without the fear of breaking the law and paying huge bribes to police to get out of the situation or even worse, ending up behind bars for smoking a plant that is a product of nature. With the increasing numbers of cannabis users in India, existing outdated laws are encouraging corruption via bribes,” the unnamed administrator of the Instagram page “Progressive Indian Stoners” told Sputnik.
Spekaing on the current status of cheap local peddling of spiked ganja, the admin revealed that substances like rat poison and cheap opiates are being artificially added to cannabis.
“That stuff’s toxic. If legalized, recreational consumption of pure herb would be saving young minds from ruining their physical health, more importantly, their mental health that is probably being dented by low costing chemical laced weed.”
According to researchers, cannabis is one the safest substances known to humanity due, in part, to the molecular structure of approximately over 200 compounds, called cannabinoids, present in its plant. Both human beings and cannabis produce these compounds which, in essence, indicates that biochemically similar compounds are present in both human beings and the cannabis plant.
Sputnik reached out to a marijuana researcher and, on the condition of anonymity, he explained that millennials – who make up India’s majority population, have “done all their research” and have come to the “rational conclusion” that cannabis is safer to use habitually than tobacco and alcohol.
“The ban isn't justified because humanity used cannabis for medical, spiritual and recreational purposes for over 5000 years. And science says cannabis is the safest substance to get an occasional high in comparison to all the others. India’s Ayurveda recognized the benefits of consuming the herb in limited proportion thousands of years ago. Its criminalization is a narrow 20th century phenomenon - around 70-80 odd years, a blip on humanity's timescale which will soon pass. And prohibition clearly isn’t working,” the researcher noted.
Psychologists are skeptical over whether marijuana should be legalized in India.
Avinash De Sousa, a Mumbai-based psychotherapist, told Sputnik that legalizing cannabis must be considered before further action is taken, as, in his opinion, even if there is a small risk of dependency, any substance could affect the mental health of consumers.
Currently, India only allows growing the plant for medicinal or research purposes in government-authorised premises, despite which, its national and financial capitals – Delhi and Mumbai, have secured top spots in cannabis consumption globally.
In 2018, a report published by German research firm ABCD noted that Delhi and Mumbai consumed 38.2 tonnes and 32.4 tonnes of marijuana respectively that year. As per a 2019 survey by the Ministry of Social Justice titled “Empowerment Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019”, 2.83 percent Indians were current users of cannabis products.
Religious pilgrims and “sadhu babas” in India are known to smoke up in honor of Lord Shiva.
Hello NCB. Meet the Kanwarias pic.twitter.com/ewDw4MOV4M— PKR | প্রশান্ত | پرشانتو (@prasanto) September 8, 2020
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A US-based market research firm, Grand View Research, recently reported that the global legal marijuana market is growing quickly, and is estimated to reach some $146.4 billion by the end of 2025.