Marijuana has many names in the market. It is illegal in India and yet your friends, relatives and every other peer associated with you have openly talked about marijuana. Some of you might have even used it.
So why the taboo around it? Why do people go berserk, the moment someone enunciates the word ‘Marijuana’? Is it really the devil? And if it is the devil, why not denounce cigarettes or alcohol in the same way? Smoking kills 1.2 million Indians each year, with passive smoking causing health problems to millions of others and yet it is perfectly legal to produce and buy cigarettes.
Well, the answer is simple. It is the pharmaceutical and tobacco industry that is pulling the strings from behind and ensuring that marijuana remains on the red list. And we don’t need to tell you about the lobbying power of pharma groups after a complete year of seeing them trying to sell their overpriced vaccines in our country, right?
Just to be clear, we are not endorsing the usage of Marijuana, tobacco or alcohol in any form.
In India, marijuana, hemp or weed has been used for ages. Even today, Holi, the festival of colour is often associated with bhaang. The concoction is made by mixing dried and ground cannabis leaves with milk, Kesar, almonds, and spices.
Marijuana used as a medicinal product in Ayurveda
Some places in India also make the ‘bhaang’ drink with yoghurt. The result is a frothy, thandai-like drink that gives you a heady high. Bhaang drink finds a mention in ancient Hindu texts like Atharvaveda as a reliever of anxiety and stress.
Marijuana is the oldest known medicine that humans have been using for at least 3500 years. In olden India, marijuana was used for its medicinal properties. Ayurveda, which again is also ostracized by the West used marijuana as a painkiller and for several other medical benefits.
The only time in recorded human history where cannabis has not been a fundamental part of our world has been the past 80 years and in India, the last 4 decades or so.
India had not banned Marijuana till the 80s
It’d be interesting for the reader/viewer to note that India had not banned marijuana up until the 80s. It was only when our revered and supposedly advanced Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came to power that India buckled under pressure from the US pharmaceutical lobby and the ‘naturally occurring’ medicinal plant was banned.
These pharma companies use marijuana to produce their painkillers and several other high-end medicines, only to be sold at astronomical prices. Notice if marijuana was legal, such medicines would not have been needed.
United Nations, you must have heard a lot about this supposed international organization in the last two years, especially its agency World Health Organisation. And why wouldn’t you, the agency single handily has ensured that the planet suffers the consequences of its dubious actions.
UN and its faulty definition that called Marijuana a synthetic drug
While it is China today, that holds the UN in its palms, it was the US and the pharmaceutical industry in the 60s that did the same. It was the UN, acting on the money might of the tobacco industry that described marijuana as a synthetic drug and batted aggressively for its ban across the seven continents. Yes, a plant that grows in the ground was called ‘synthetic’.
Don’t believe us, read this paragraph from the UN report and make your assumption, “In the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, cannabis and cannabis resin are described, respectively, as the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted and as the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant.”
The main psychoactive element responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek from Marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant.
However, the UN, at the time of the adoption of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs referred to THC as synthetic and thus started the dubious campaign to besmirch Marijuana — the plant.
The UN pretty cleverly used the power of semantics to prove its point. Weed is the dried cannabis plant, simple. It is innocuous if ingested in moderate quantities. Whereas hash is made from the resin and sap of cannabis. Hash oil can contain about 90% THC, as compared to the 12 per cent THC levels found in other cannabis products.
The USA legalizing marijuana while we continue to follow their old handbook
The tobacco as well as the pharmaceutical industry is afraid that once legalized the marijuana industry can absolutely render them useless. The USA and its tobacco lobby managed to put a ban on marijuana production and consumption in India but now, over 18 states in the country have legalized it for recreation purposes while 36 allow for medical sales.
The U.S. legal marijuana industry was estimated at $13.6 billion in 2019 with 340,000 jobs devoted to the handling of plants, according to New Frontier Data. In 2020, according to a Forbes report, marijuana sales hit a record of $17.5 billion, a 46% increase from 2019. Meanwhile, India practically has a non-existent industry and all the money goes to traffickers and terror outfits.
Cocaine, heroin, and other synthetic drugs are where the problem lies but the governments across the world are not ready to have that discussion.
After all, we live in a capitalistic society and the government loves taking a moral ground and simultaneously minting the money.
Hemp: Its Usage
Hemp is another subset of marijuana plant. Hemp plant is also known as the ‘super plant’ because of its the versatility and multiple usage. The fiber of Hemp plant is used extensively in the west to produce clothes, and other textile-related products. Hemp fabric is known to be of better quality than that of cotton.
Also, West is extensively researching on the usage of Hemp, as an alternate of the traditional fuel. While, in India, Hemp cultivation is quiet limited to certain areas and for certain sectors and medicinal purpose only.
Taking the moral high ground on substance abuse
The rationale given behind raising the price of tobacco products is that they are discouraging the users to stop taking such substances.
However, we never really get a rough figure of consumers, increasing or decreasing. Although, we do know that the higher taxes on tobacco products means that the government coffers continue to overflow.
Remember how cricket is an integral part of us, Indians, and our lives. A majority of us complain that Indian stadiums look ugly on television, right? Most of the stadiums are plastered with ads of tobacco companies. If the price increase was discouraging the users, these companies would not have been buying TV spots, stadiums spots in India and abroad.
Tobacco companies understand that once they have given someone the taste of their deadly products, they will keep coming back, no matter the price.
The surrogate advertising may be at its peak at the moment but in the past, big tobacco companies like Benson and Hedges hosted entire world cups and no one batted an eye. Such is the influence of these companies for the last few decades.
NGOs employed on the payroll of Tobacco companies
Then emerged the NGOs which have been a major voice of protest against the marijuana industry. Like we have established on innumerable occasions on TFI, the NGOs — barring a few are nothing but a front for vested interest groups.
They do the bidding of these companies on their funds and thrive. Sterlite Copper Plant, Sardar Sarovar Dam, Foxconn factory, POSCO factory – all have one common thread – the NGOs trying to derail them.
Read more: Rupees 89,992,20,00000: What Sterlite Copper Plant shutdown has cost India in 3 years
Similarly, the tobacco and pharmaceutical industry funnels billions of dollars through the NGOs to proclaim that Marijuana is nothing but the second incarnation of the Devil and those using it are the evil.
It is now that we know how harmful cigarettes are but, in the past, these tobacco products were marketed as a symbol of freedom. The movies even had female actors puffing a cigarette. A conscious idea was dropped in our brains that smoking equated to power.
Back in 1998, the U.S. government and five major tobacco companies signed onto what was called the Master Settlement Agreement, which meant the tobacco companies had to pay states billions of dollars a year to cover costs related to the health effects of smoking because the public had been misled about them.
As for India, they continued to mislead. Thus, all we ask is the government and the ordinary people of India to be pragmatic. Keep risky activities out in the open where they can be regulated and of course taxed. Not like we have been doing up until now by pushing them underground into zones of disorder.
The benefits of marijuana are many. It’s a sleep aid, appetite enhancer, anxiety and pain reliever. It has brought immense relief to the terminally ill. It’s also a muscle relaxant, aiding and speeding recovery from body breaking fevers like chikungunya. And as more legal research is done into it, more medically proven benefits are bound to surface. Bharat was always aware of it.
The Netherlands has seen a reduction in crime and use of synthetic drugs, ever since the legalization of pot. Surely, the babus of India can also come up with a half-decent proposal to do the same.