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The Delhi High Court today issued notice in a plea challenging the prohibition and criminalization of the use of cannabis in India.
Notice was issued to the Central government by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar in a petition preferred by Great Legalisation Movement India Trust.
The petitioner has challenged the constitutional validity of provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) and the NDPS Rules which prohibit and criminalize the use of cannabis or industrial hemp and prescribe restrictions on activities related to it.
The petitioner claims to be a registered trust which has been “at the forefront” of the movement to decriminalize the use of cannabis and raise awareness with respect to its medicinal, industrial, ecological, economic and other benefits.
In its petition filed through Advocates Avinash K Sharma and Ashutosh Nagar, the petitioner organisation has clarified that it is not seeking to completely de-regulate the use of the drug. However, any regulation should be consistent with the requirement of “reasonable restriction”.
The petitioner today also sought to distinguish its petition from an earlier plea on the similar issue which was dismissed by the Court. It was argued that while the latter plea sought a direction to the Central government to legalize marijuana, the petitioner was concerned with the constitutional validity of certain provisions of NDPS Act with respect to the prohibition and criminalization of the use of cannabis.
It is the petitioner’s case that the treatment of cannabis at par with other harmful and lethal chemicals is arbitrary, unscientific and unreasonable.
Relying on various scientific research papers and reports, the petitioner has highlighted the medicinal properties of cannabis.
It is submitted,
“…medicinal use of Cannabis can help to reduce the acute health crisis, which the country is currently facing.. (It) is useful in prevention of Cancer and brings relief to the patients who are affected with HIV. The level of relief, which this plant can bring, would become evident from the fact that on an average eight lakh people die from cancer every year. Further, about 82,000 cases of HIV infection are reported every year.”
It is also claimed that cannabis is an effective analgesic and helps in cases of chronic pain, improving the motor disability scores of persons suffering from Parkinson’s disease etc.
The petitioner has also listed several industrial applications of the Cannabis plant.
“Industrial hemp (Cannabis) is an agricultural commodity that is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including fiberboards and furniture, foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, yarns and spun fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, bio-plastics, bio-fuels, graphene technology and other manufactured goods.“
Had there been no prohibition on the cultivation of industrial cannabis the farmers can immensely benefit from the cultivation of Cannabis.”
The petitioner thus asserts that Parliament, while enacting the NDPS Act, did not take into consideration the positive effects of cannabis on human health and the history of use of cannabis in India. It is also asserted that the international instruments, existing before and after the Act of 1985, did not prescribe criminalization of the use of cannabis.
It is also remarked that it is “unfathomable” that the government is running bhang shops in the country when the content of both cannabis and bhang is the same.
Based on the above grounds, the petitioner pleads that various Sections of the NDPS Act are in violation of Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner is being represented by Advocate Sai Deepak J.
The matter will be taken up on February 5.