By the Times of India
India has voted in favour of a move by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 convention, where it was listed alongside drugs like heroin. This means India supports reclassification of marijuana to drop it from the strictest drug control list. However, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the government at home has been doggedly pursuing and prosecuting Bollywood personalities for allegations of marijuana possession of very small quantities. If government thinks marijuana is a less dangerous drug and has potential medicinal and therapeutic value, then why has it been coming down heavily on Bollywood for what can at best be classified as a minor offence?
In treating allegations of marijuana possession as a serious matter and tarnishing Bollywood’s image, government through agencies like the Narcotics Control Bureau has undermined the one industry that has contributed the most to India’s soft power. If the idea here was to put Bollywood in its place, this kind of a statist mindset isn’t conducive for any industry. Besides, the contradiction in the implementation of the law is even more glaring when sadhus and ascetics can openly consume marijuana while Bollywood personalities have the book thrown at them.
The fact is marijuana use has long been part of Indian tradition. It was only under American pressure that the Indian government banned all narcotic substances, including marijuana, in the 1980s. But today there is a change of heart in the US itself. The House of Representatives just passed a legislation that would decriminalise marijuana and expunge non-violent marijuana-related convictions. In fact, at least 15 American states have legalised recreational cannabis while 35 states in all have legalised medical marijuana. India too must reverse course and decriminalise marijuana. A BJP government ought to be more inclined towards upholding what’s been for long an Indian tradition anywayI