United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND) has reclassified cannabis as a less ‘unsafe’ drug and eliminated it from Schedule IV category. Earlier, cannabis also known as hemp, marijuana or pot was registered along with hazardous and extremely addictive opioids like heroin. Despite being known for its medicinal value, cannabis stays a banned drug for non-medical use under UN law. 53 countries were involved in this historic vote, with 27 voting in favor of rescheduling cannabis. India was one of them. Also Read: When and why did Marijuana became illegal in India but not bhaang?
“In India, the central government gives states the power to cultivate cannabis, and this new positive outlook will make state governments less hesitant to give permissions to growers and researchers” said Delzaad Deolaliwala, the co-founder of Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO). The licensed sale of cannabinoids (components of cannabis which are also produced by the human body) like CBD is legal in India, while states like Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh can grow marijuana for medical, industrial and research purposes.
India does not have an independent NDPS Act, and therefore the government worries about the UN putting sanctions if they tried to legalize cannabis, like they did on Uruguay.
The fact that India voted for this rescheduling makes the government’s position on cannabis clear. Despite a substantial crackdown on cannabis in India over this year, and the media slander that it triggered, the government’s official position does recognize the medical benefits of marijuana. However, the sweeping change that will hopefully be rolled out only affects the medical use of the plant.
Cannabis activists also agree that the reclassification could lead to a shake-up when it comes to people’s attitude towards recreational use of weed, helping in the fight to legalize the plant even for non-medicinal purposes. It is one of the greatest milestones in the journey of the cannabis plant. But it’s also disappointing that it took so long for this miraculous plant’s medical benefits to be acknowledged.
The acceptance of cannabis will not end the concern though. Regulation of the market will bring in taxation and paperwork and shift the cultivation power from smaller farmers to giant industrial players and hence individuals should also be allowed to grow and use their own plants. Experts also agree that commercialization of cannabis will destroy the essence of the plant.
Meanwhile, despite cannabis being rescheduled at the UN vote, other proposals – such as rescheduling THC and getting rid of cannabis extracts and tinctures from the list of banned ingredients – were vetoed.