Behind the bill
This historic legislation was proposed by Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi, Patiala MP (Member of Parliament). The bill would call for the legalization of medical marijuana, as well as the regulation of cannabis and opium. It would act as an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985. Since the passage of NDPS, this is the first instance of Parliament considering a MP’s bill as an amendment to the 1985 Act.
Why was NDPS passed in 1985?
The Act was passed partly due to global pressure from the Conventions on Drug Policy proposed by the United Nations, as well as the gaining steam of America’s War on Drugs. Gandhi says it’s time to reevaluate the law, which lumps natural substances like marijuana in with cocaine and heroin.
Gandhi told the Hindustan Times that “the number of drug users arrested contributes to 88 percent of those jailed under NDPS,” while “traffickers and distributors are two percent [of arrests]. No financers have been arrested. The drug mafia operates with impunity, increasing the scale of its operations.”
What happens if the bill passes?
If passed by Parliament during their coming winter session, the bill will have a tremendous effect on Indian society. Advocates already had a breakthrough earlier this summer; as we reported, the Indian government issued its first-ever cannabis research license to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
If this bill were to pass, there would most likely be years of red tape and research before THC or CBD products would hit the legal Indian market. However, it would be a huge step forward for the country’s hopeful medicinal and recreational users. Cannabis has been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years, and NDPS is due for a rewrite.
Why the Bill May Not Pass
Legal experts fear this bill may not pass due to its inclusion of opium as a potentially regulated substance. It is also important to consider that although the bill has been cleared for discussion, there is no guarantee it will see time on the Parliament floor.
That Dr. Gandhi’s bill was considered at all remains a victory, however, and we’ll be watching the situation as it unfolds in the coming weeks.