Maneka Gandhi, Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development, recently came out in support of legalizing medical marijuana throughout India. Gandhi voiced her support for legalization at a recent meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM), which was held to discuss the country's drug policy. “Marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in [treating] cancer,” she told the assembled ministers.
“In some of the developed countries like the U.S., marijuana has been legalized, which ultimately results in less drug abuse,” Gandhi said. “The possibility of the same may be explored in India.” Gandhi also stressed the need to regulate the availability of codeine cough syrups and inhalants, along with other drugs that are commonly being abused in India.
Cannabis consumption and production in India are banned by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, enacted in 1985. Consumption of cannabis can be punished by up to six months in jail, and illegal production or cultivation can get an offender locked up for as long as ten years. Despite these laws, cannabis is the country's most popular illegal drug. Authorities seized over 400,000 pounds of ganja and around 5500 pounds of hashish last year.
Indian lawmakers have been discussing the possibility of cannabis legalization for several years now. In 2015, senior parliamentarian Tathagata Satpathy argued for a change in the country's drug laws, calling cannabis prohibition “elitist.” Last year, Parliament member Dharamvir Gandhi proposed a bill that attempted to “legitimize cultivation, production, possession, manufacture, sale, transport, and inter-state export, import, use and consumption” of “soft” drugs like cannabis.