The Delhi High Court on Thursday agreed to examine a plea challenging the various sections under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 which criminalise and prohibit the use of cannabis in India.
The Public Interest Litigation was filed by Bengaluru based cannabis advocacy group The Great Legislation Movement (GLM). A group that actively advocates for the medicinal, industrial and economic benefits of marijuana. The petition has been filed by advocates Avinash K Sharma and Ashutosh Nagar and is being represented by senior advocates Arvind Datar and Sai Deepak J.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 penalizes the cultivation, use and possession of various drugs such as cannabis, opium and coca. The petitioners claimed that cannabis had been wrongly clubbed with the many lethal or hard drugs banned in this provision was arbitrary, unscientific and unreasonable.
They claimed that while enacting the law the parliament did not consider the various medicinal uses of cannabis and the history of its use in India. Stating its various medicinal uses it said, “…medicinal use of Cannabis can help to reduce the acute health crisis, which the country is currently facing. (It) is useful in the prevention of Cancer and brings relief to the patients who are affected with HIV. The level of relief, which this plant can bring, would become evident from the fact that on an average eight lakh people die from cancer every year. Further, about 82,000 cases of HIV infection are reported every year.”
It is also claimed that cannabis is an effective analgesic and helps in cases of chronic pain, improving the motor disability scores of persons suffering from Parkinson disease etc.
It also cited various industrial uses, “Industrial hemp (Cannabis) is an agricultural commodity that is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including fiberboard and furniture, foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, yarns and spun fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, bio-plastics, bio-fuels, graphene technology and other manufactured goods.”
Had there been no prohibition on the cultivation of industrial cannabis the farmers can immensely benefit from the cultivation of Cannabis.”
The petitioners also reiterated that it only sought for reasonable restriction and not to completely deregulate. The petitioner pleaded that various Sections of the NDPS Act violate Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution of India. Interestingly, bhang which has the same properties as cannabis is not banned under this provision.
This is not the first time the court has been approached for this purpose Previously, The Bombay High Court in 2015 dismissed a plea seeking to decriminalise the use of cannabis. In May Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the government to decide on legalization of medicinal and industrial use of hemp.
The matter has been listed for 29th July, before the division bench of Justices G.S Sistani and Jyoti Singh.