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Is Weed or Marijuana Legal in India?

Do you understand your legal rights in case you are possessing Cannabis? Understand the permissible limits of possession and how the law impacts you. Read and understand the legality of weed or marijuana usage in India.
Written by:
Prachi Darji
Published on

Weed, marijuana, bhang, charas, ganja and so on, cannabis in India has been given numerous names and forms over thousands of years. Cannabis has been a part of India, specifically in the Hindu religion, used in the form of charas (resin), bhang (seeds), and ganja (flower of cannabis).  

The most commonly used form of cannabis in India is in the form of bhang used to make 'Thandai', a milkshake laced with cannabis seeds and leaves, consumed on Hindu festivals of Holi and Shivratri, the Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla, and other festive forms. However, Is weed legal in India? is the primary question that still comes up whenever someone mentions weed, marijuana or bhang.

What does the law say about Weed or Marijuana?

The central law that deals with cannabis (weed or marijuana) in India is the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985(1). However, different states have their own laws relating to consumption, possession, sale or purchase of weed or marijuana. In general, in India, possession of these drugs is considered a criminal act and can get you in serious legal trouble

For instance, Odisha is a state in which weed is legal in India and people commonly use 'chillums' to smoke weed within the state’s territory. Uttarakhand is the first state in India to allow commercial cultivation of Hemp. Since its a rich crop that requires less amount of water, many other hilly states are considering the proposal to allow controlled production of Hemp, and marijuana. 

Cannabis has been defined as the flowering or fruiting top of the cannabis plant out of which the resin has not been extracted. This excludes the seeds and leaves when they do not form the part of the top. By this definition, 'bhang' does not constitute a part of the cannabis plant and hence 'bhang' is openly consumed in India on numerous religious occasions. 

The NDPS Act defines ‘cannabis’ as:

  • Charas, crude or purified, is a separated resin obtained from the cannabis plant and includes concentrated preparation or resin called liquid or hashish oil.
  • Ganja, the flowering or fruiting top, that excludes seeds and leaves which do not form part of the top.
  • Any mixture or drink made out of charas or ganja.

The definition of cannabis under the NDPS Act excludes bhang as a part of the plant as well. 

The NDPS Act prohibits the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers, but the use of leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant is permitted, with the states having the power to regulate and form the state rules for it. Any person caught in possession of any of these parts of the cannabis plant may be arrested.

The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958(2) bans the sale, possession, purchase, and consumption of ganja and bhang. The Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949(3) prohibits the manufacture, possession, and consumption of bhang and bhang-containing substances without a license in Maharashtra. 

What happens if you get caught with weed or marijuana in India?

Even possessing prohibited drugs (weed or marijuana) in India is an offense under the NDPS Act. The purpose of possession of drugs is not relevant and the punishment depends upon the quantity of drugs in possession. If a person is caught with drugs or found to be a drug addict, he/she would not be subject to prosecution if he/she voluntarily chooses to undergo de-addiction treatment. 

The various laws that deal with possession and consumption of drugs in India by juveniles, or children below the age of 18 years are as following:

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000
  • State drug laws

What is the punishment for carrying drugs (Weed or Marijuana) in India?

As per section 20 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 production, sale/purchase, transportation, interstate import/export or any other commercial activity of cannabis is punishable, explains advocate Pushkar Taimni

  • For holding a small quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of Rs. 10,000 or both.
  • For holding more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
  • For holding commercial quantity, but slightly less than commercial quality, the prescribed punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.

The small and commercial quantity of various drugs in India are as follows:

  • Heroin: 5 grams- 250 grams
  • Cocaine:  2 grams- 100 grams
  • Hashish or Charas: 100 grams- 1 kg
  • Opium: 25 grams- 2.5 kgs
  • Ganja: 1kg- 20 kgs

If you allow your premises to be used for such an offense, you are liable under section 25 of the NDPS Act and will be awarded the same punishment mentioned under section 20. Different states in India have made their own rules and amendments in the act which makes it even difficult to navigate with the drugs. Before thinking of possessing even the smallest quantity, just beware that the law can come heavily on you. 

Why is marijuana illegal in India? Can it be legalized?

Indians have a very strong mythical and medicinal relationship with Marijuana. Its been here for centuries as part of our festivities and culture. In 1986, Govt of India under pressure from the medicinal lobby of the US, gave in to create stringent narcotic laws that made the sale, production, and transportation of illegal in the country.

There have been for or against the argument for legalizing this drug ever since. The law has been unable to make a real difference, albeit shifted a legal source of state income to international drug cartels. 

As per the estimate around 60,000 kgs of hash and 40,000 kgs of opium are produced in Himachal Pradesh. Out of that, only 500 kgs are seized annually. By making it legal, the govt can add to state income, it can also help the local economy of hilly states with limited water and the huge demand for this drug can be legally fulfilled reducing the illegal crimes associated with this industry. 

As a Responsible citizen 

If you come across any person who is selling weed or marijuana or other drugs in India, you can contact the police authorities of your nearest police station. There are special narcotics cells in many police stations in India. A complaint can also be filed with the Officer of State customs or excise with the help of Best Criminal Lawyer in India

Need to talk to a criminal defense lawyer in India? Consult the Best Criminal Lawyers in India at MyAdvo

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External Links:

[1] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985: A detailed view of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

[2] The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act: A brief into The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958

[3] The Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949: A sitemap into The Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949