Cannabis smoking in India dates back to almost 2000 BC and mention of it can also be found in the Atharvaveda. In the present time, the problem has become more intense due to the discovery of a variety of strong and harmful drugs and an increase in the number of people becoming addicted to drugs. Until the year 1985, several drugs like Bhang, marijuana, charas etc. were legally sold and consumed in India and their recreational use was considered very normal and was viewed on the common grounds as consumption of alcohol. In the year 1961, the United States of America emphasized on the need of a worldwide Law against drug usage by the adoption of Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and by the year 1985, India who had originally opposed this succumbed to the pressure by America and therefore enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
The Act puts a prohibition on the production/manufacturing/ cultivation, transport, selling, storage, purchase and/or consumption of Narcotic Drugs of Psychotropic Substances. The Act which is also commonly referred to as the NDPS Act came into force on 14 November 1985 and has been amended thrice in the years 1988, 2001 and 2014. The Act sets up a Narcotics Control Bureau which is a body overlooking a ban on the Psychotropic substances and Narcotic drugs. The Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was also passed in 1988 with the objective to ensure full implementation and enforcement of the NDPS act.
The NDPS Act of 1985
The NDPS Act is divided into five chapters, each of which deals with specific topics in the law. The first Chapter introduces and defines various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and finally emphasizes the central government’s authority to exclude or add other substances from to the list in accordance with the NDPS Act..
Chapter 2 focuses on the relevant authorities and officials established under the NDPS Act. It will also appoint a Commission on Narcotic Drugs, set up an Advisory Committee on Narcotic Drugs and Psychiatry, and develop guidelines to fund the National Fund for the Management of Drug Abuse.
Chapter 3 talks about the prohibition, control and regulation of the above substances. While preventing anyone from planting or producing coca plants, poppies or cannabis plants, it later developed rules to retain these rights in accordance with the needs of the central and state governments. In addition, the smuggling of such materials is prohibited in all interstate and international contexts. Finally, this chapter looks at the control of other controlled substances that can be used in the manufacture of narcotics, and provides provisions describing cases in which the legal cultivation of poppy, coca, and cannabis plants can be made.
Chapter 4 deals with violations and penalties under the NDPS Act. It provides the punishment of crimes which are to be dealt in the act.
Chapter 5 reviews the litigation procedure and establishes guidelines for officials authorized by law.
Criticism and amendments
The NDPS Act has faced criticisms on several occasions since its inception. For many years, the law has been criticized as a piece of legislation eager to implement and has pointed out the main flaws in its operation under pressure. Since there is no clear definition of the treatment of natural plants such as cannabis, even if the law does not mention it, people can legally escape eating the bhang. In addition, the law was criticized for failing to provide the necessary profits for the medical use of these substances and was finally revised in 2014. The 2014 amendment created a list of “compulsory drugs”. As mentioned above, the state has the right to grow narcotic drugs, so Uttarakhand is moving towards legalizing cannabis. However, farmers only use it for industrial purposes to grow fiber, and usually not for recreational purposes. In addition, the Uttarakhand government has been accused of violently defeating drug users and giving similar punishment as if they were drug suppliers. Although there are some obvious flaws that can be resolved, the law is affecting modern Indian society and is very important for any drug debate. The Times of India also criticized the Act describing it as “ill-conceived” and “poorly thought out” as the Act provided the same punishment for all drugs which gave a way out to drug dealers to deal with harder drugs which are far more harmful but have a higher profit margin. The Act was much needed due to the increasing problem of drug addiction in India but it still needs strict enforcement to tackle the problem and several changes need to be made including the distinction in the category of drugs and the distinction in the degree of punishment awarded for the use of the same drugs.