13:51 GMT26 November 2020
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    Free India’s sixth Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi banned the consumption of marijuana for all purposes except medical research back in 1985. Though illegal, a 2018 report published by German research firm ABCD noted that Indian cities Delhi and Mumbai were heavy consumers of marijuana and used between 32 and 38 tonnes of cannabis that year alone.

    This year, cannabis confiscation reached an all-time high in India’s south-eastern coastal state of Odisha with police officials nabbing more than 110 tonnes of marijuana.

    The state government of Odisha is planning to use high-resolution satellite imagery together with Artificial Intelligence to gather detailed information on the sites where the plant seems to thrive, so that crops which grow particularly well in nine of the region's districts - including Malkangiri, Sambalpur and Deogarh - can be destroyed in their early stages.

    Cracking down on illegal cannabis trade has become so common in the area, that the state government is also considering implementing other advanced technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and remote sensing technology to curb its production. 

    “In the initial phase, the excise and police department officials will create a master record for all the cannabis plantation sites in Odisha by geo-tagging and geo-fencing. Machine Learning algorithms will be trained to identify cannabis plantations from high-resolution satellite imagery,” excise commissioner of Odisha, Anjan Kumar Manik was quoted as saying.

    In total, the state covers 38.476 million acres of the Indian land, and there are nine districts that are ideal for growing marijuana. Estimates cited by media reports suggest that 1,500 cannabis plants can be raised in one acre – each of which produces around 500 grams of consumable marijuana. Traders illegally sell their produce for INR 2,000 ($30 approx) per kilogram.

    As the debate about legalising cannabis for recreational purposes intensifies each day, Odisha, which is one of the nation’s top cannabis producing states just like the Himalayan states, does not want to be in the spotlight as regards supplying the illegal plant to Indian metro cities. 

    India’s narcotics watchdog has sprung into action after the tragic death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Initial investigations into the 32-year-old's alleged suicide revealed that the actor was struggling with depression and was smoking pot regularly.

    Upon investigation, the Narcotics Control Bureau of India roped in several Bollywood celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Rhea Chakraborty, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and others into rounds of questioning.

    The country has already shut down a number of cannabis rackets in several parts of the country including Goa, Mumbai, Odisha and Delhi.

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