In the Indian context, marijuana is mostly considered as being of recreational use, but it is not just that. Recreational use is probably true for not more than 5%; for the rest, it has medicinal purposes. The cannabis plant has tremendous amount of medicinal value and its potential for industrial usage can hardly be overstated. China is investing a few billion dollars in developing different strains of the marijuana plant towards several objectives. It has proper factories for processing marijuana. Many countries have developed fabrics. It has unlimited usage in diverse fields, including in the field of semiconductors.
A potential cash crop
The cannabis plant is something natural to India, especially the northern hilly regions. It has the potential of becoming a cash crop for poor marginal farmers. If proper research is done and cultivation of marijuana encouraged at an official level, it can gradually become a source of income for poor people with small landholdings. That is one part. The other part is, even if you are growing paddy, you can grow marijuana on the margins.
India should ideally focus on marijuana’s medicinal use. It is known to help people with eye ailments, cancer, and joint pain. Incidentally, China is also doing a lot of research on marijuana for cancer cure. Marijuana does not cure cancer but it reportedly stops cancer from spreading.
The alcohol lobby, like the cigarette lobby, is very powerful and it would obviously not like natural intoxicants like weed to be made available legally and easily for the poor, as this would render weed cheaper than alcohol. Alcohol destroys the health and economy of families. Ideally one should not be using any intoxicant. No drugs at all. But I wish to allay fears that marijuana is a gateway drug. By itself, it isnotan intoxication that is habit-forming. I am willing to admit that I have used it myself and I could quit it whenever I wanted. I was never addicted to it anyway. I am not addicted to anything except coffee.
So this banning of marijuana, I think, has been a sweeping action depriving people of the good things it has to offer. Back then, pressures from the U.S., which is now legalising marijuana, forced us to conform. Now, several states in the U.S. have legalised pot. In fact, a company called American Green has bought a small township (Nipton, California) and wants to make it a ‘smart ganja’ township. The townsfolk will get fabrics, medicines, as well as smokable marijuana.
Time to make it legal
In Odisha, where weed is still legal, people can buy marijuana for recreational use. The elderly people in my constituency congregate every Monday evening and do a puja called the Trinath Mela. They sit under a big tree and pray to the three supreme beings and smoke ganja in the open. It is a custom that has been in existence for hundreds of years; I see no reason for making it illegal.
Laws should be made to suit people so that they do not break the law to maintain their lifestyle. Laws should weave around an existing lifestyle, not obstruct it. Or else laws will be broken. If you encourage people in their normal day-to-day life to break certain laws, the sanctity of laws breaks down.
As told to Anuradha Raman