THE ILLEGAL WEED MARKET AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE PRESENT GENERATION
Author: Indrani Joaddar, II year of B.A., LL.B.(Hons.) from Amity Law School, Kolkata (Amity University)
Worldwide India has always been seen as a culturally flourished country with lots of rituals and festivals and deity worship. Ancient India didn’t only have the origin of Ayurveda but also believed in looking up to nature for any kind of cure. In that course, India has not only witnessed the discovery of various plants for medicinal use but also has created a lot more ‘aushudi’ or medicines as known to the locals.
Among those various plants, one of which gets most recognition in the Vedas and Puranas is the cannabis plant which is considered to be one of the sacred plants broadly classified into cannabis Sativa, cannabis hemp and marijuana. Locally in India, they are called charas (resin), ganja (blooming flower) and bhang (seeds and leaves).
Consumption of bhang has been seen since the earliest of times by making it a drink on the occasion of Holi the festival of colours. The origin of this drink was first observed through a painting where it showed goddess Parvati making this specific drink to calm down Lord Shiva while he went furious destroying the jungle where he lived. The source of the painting is still unknown.
The second story tells us that, During the Middle Ages, soldiers often took a drink of bhang before entering battle, just as Westerners took a swig of whiskey. One story tells of the Sikh leader, Gobind Singh's soldiers being scared by an attacking elephant with a sword in his trunk. Terrified, the men nearly mutinied until Singh gave one courageous man a mixture of bhang and opium. The herbs gave him the strength and agility to slip under the elephant from below and kill him without endangering himself. This act of courage led Singh's men to victory over the enemy.
Other than bhang the usage of marijuana or ganja (blooming flower of the cannabis plant) was mainly by preparing a combination smoke popularly called as chillum and so consumed by mass labourers or working-class Indians to cope with the everyday stress as primarily these plants had the capacity to numb human fatigued muscles and give relief but during the British Raj, the administrators didn’t give much consent to the consumption of weed in any way because at the end the labourers after consuming so were often seen not being able to work extra. They were also worried about the extensive use of cannabis which was endangering the health of the native people and was somehow affecting their exploitation policies as the workers couldn’t work properly. The British government asked the government of India back then to appoint a commission to look into the cultivation of the hemp plant, preparation of drugs from it, trade-in those drugs, the social and moral impact of its consumption, and possible prohibition. The first-ever prohibition happened through the Indian hemp drugs commission. Although the commissioners soon understood that the ban of even the cultivation and marketing of cannabis or even hemp could largely affect the Indian medicine trade market.
Therefore after independence in the year 1985 the Indian legislature passed an act named as the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances Act, 1985 wherein the whole family of the cannabis plant was recognized under section 2(iii) of the act which defines these as,
(a) Charas - a separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified; obtained from the cannabis plant, which also includes the concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;
(b) Ganja - the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant, (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated;
(c) Any mixture, with or without any natural material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom. Thus making consumption of all these completely illegal and including them under substances as of the due act.
Although the provisions on the consumption of bhang lie differently, NDPS allows the consumption of bhang, while various states have their laws banning or restricting its use. In some states, only authorized dealers are allowed to sell bhang. Some states also have rules about the maximum amount of bhang one person can carry and the minimum age of the buyer. In Assam, The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958, prohibits sale, purchase, possession and consumption of ganja and bhang. In Maharashtra, Section 66(1) (b) of the Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949, bans manufacture, possession and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances without a license.
On 21 February 2017, Gujarat legalized bhang by removing it from the list of "intoxicating drugs" covered by section 23 of the Gujarat Prohibition Act. In the long-run consumption of any form of weed is only helpful when given in amounts which are strictly regulated by a doctor or a licensed druggist or chemist what we tend to overlook is the illegal trading of marijuana and illegal consumption of it by the present and upcoming generations sold by the so-called big guy or dealers mainly to the students and other addicted personals. This illegal market is more prone and the demand for it is the highest among students and the present younger generation. Even for legal business of weed the high amount of taxes imposed on companies prevent any kind of illegal trading but in this illegal market, there is no question of any kind of payment of taxes which enables the market to grow without limits and restriction.
Moreover, the easy targets of this market are the students who are likely to be completely intoxicated with alcohol, tobacco and weed. Although this market certainly doesn’t restrain itself to students only it has various other buyers as well but as of now, the graph shows the younger generation more involved in this market.
As mentioned earlier, intake of it under proper guidance does have good effects on the body but unlimited intake may cause severe physiological damages for example,
Firstly, Marijuana used directly affects the brain — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. In the long run, Marijuana also affects brain development. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.
Secondly, marijuana affects lung health greatly as well. In many cases, marijuana is smoked in the form of hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), in pipes or water pipes (bongs),. Smoked marijuana, in any form, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels. 1-2 Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production.
Thirdly, it is seen mostly among women smokers that consumption of marijuana affects greatly the ovulation process which in turn disturbs the menstrual cycle completely, in the long run, making many women incapable to bear fetuses or even have conception problems. Other than these there are various other aspects of consuming the uncontrolled amount of weed/marijuana.
But what we should focus on is its adverse effect on the present generation. Even though we have talked about the black market being extremely influential or even the soft target being the students but the real problem is with the mindset of the consumers, it is somewhere seen as a sign of popular culture or even as a trend. Therefore resulting in serious health hazards including a great downfall on their academics. By this, I certainly don’t mean to say that the older generations are nowhere involved but the demand and consumption are at its peak among the younger ones mainly the 21st generation. For that matter Consumption of any kind intoxicants by people below the age of 21 is considered illegal but the popular culture is to take weed.
To conclude I would like to say the only way to prevent this kind of uncontrolled consumption lies in proper check as to how the illegal market starts and from where the chain begins. Taking into consideration the various medicinal advantages of marijuana/weed/hemp plants there can’t be a complete ban on the cultivation or even the trading can’t be stopped but this kind hazardous consumption can be stopped with proper enactments and checks and investigation. Most importantly here the younger generation needs to somewhere need to understand the vicious cycle that will generate and the victims would be the upcoming generations. So, it’s time that we just don’t think about ourselves but also about our future and give them a better and healthier life.