The Legalisation of Marijuana: A Comparative Analysis

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” —Carl Sagan

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug which originates from the dried tops of the Cannabis Sativa (hemp) plant, stem, seeds and leaves. Marijuana that is used for medicinal reasons, including for people with nausea or reduced appetite correlated with AIDS or cancer treatment. Marijuana is often used for specific medical conditions and religious and spiritual purposes as a recreational drug. There are several other substances found in cannabis, many of which can have an adverse effect on health. The debate over the legality of marijuana is going on for years with no effective solution to it. Some people claim that in India cannabis is in use for a long time and now it should be made legal. The main issue that people brings before is that, if cigarette and alcohol which is also harmful to health can be legalised, then marijuana must be legalised too.

The debate over the legality of Marijuana

Positive effects

  • Psychoactive is a type of anti-depressants, hallucinogens and Cannabis is a mixture of all those substances which makes it the most desired after. THC is usually the major psychoactive element of the cannabis plant; numerous scientific researchers have recommended that some other cannabinoids, such as CBD, may also play a significant role in its psychoactive implications.
  • Cannabis used for medicinal purposes has many well-known and understood positive effects. Among these are: improving nausea and vomiting, stimulating hunger in patients with chemotherapy and AIDS, lowering intraocular eye pressure (revealed to be effective for treating glaucoma), and general analgesic effects.
  • Decreased obesitylevels: According to a report released in the USA in the 2011 Journal of Epidemiology, obesity is lower among those who use marijuana than in non-users. Marijuana also affected the level of body fat and its reaction to insulin in animal testing. Marijuana compounds have been shown to elevate the rat’s metabolic rate.
  • The National Institute for Drug Abuse has researched the 6 drugs’ relative additivity – hemp, caffeine, cocaine, alcohol, heroin and nicotine). Cannabis has been listed as the least addictive and the second least addictive to caffeine.

Negative effects

  • Some of marijuana’s key negative effects are due to its unlawful nature. Even though marijuana is illegal, not only can people bring legal action against them for growing, trying to sell or purchase marijuana, but people don’t even know exactly what active ingredients they are using in the marijuana. Marijuana’s illegal status has been serving as a hindrance in the research field.
  • Marijuana can be used as a getaway for drug theory i.e. according to some studies the consumption of marijuana leads to a higher risk of consuming more hard or illicit drugs. For example, one of the studies showed that consumption of marijuana led to the consumption of another hard drug in future like heroin. This study includes the use of tobacco and alcohol as well.
  • It was found that chronic marijuana use before 18 years was linked with permanent harm to the intellect, attention, and memory of an individual, and indicative of marijuana neurological damage. Individuals who consumed cannabis after the age of 18, have not displayed the same decline.
  • As most consumers mix marijuana with tobacco, consuming marijuana has been associated with increasing tar levels in the lungs, making it more difficult to analyse the influence of cannabis on the respiratory system.[1]

Thus the legalisation of marijuana remains a big question. Some researchers believe that marijuana is beneficial for the health of an individual. However, other researchers believe that it does not play a role in improving the health rather it decreases the health capacity of an individual by directly targeting the respiratory system of the body of a human. The main drawback is marijuana is illegal so the researchers are not allowed to expand their studies and get a proper answer by experimentation of cannabis. The question thus lies before the world is that if cigarette and alcohol are not banned which is proved to be more harmful then why is marijuana considered illegal.

Laws that deal with marijuana in India

In India, marijuana is illegal and is regulated under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The main objective of this act is to provide rules and regulations on drug trafficking. The NDPS act has been in issue and bought before the court in many instances which provided conflicting judgements and confusing the general public. Before the NDPS Act, various Central and State Enactments had exercised statutory authority over narcotic drugs in India.

Section 2 (iii) of the NDPS Act defines cannabis as-

(a) charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained

from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;

(b) ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and

(c) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink, prepared therefrom;

Section 8 of the NDPS Act restricts the sale and production of marijuana resin and flowers, and the use of cannabis Sativa plant leaves is authorized with the states having the authority to form the rules for it.  Any individual found in possession of marijuana may be detained.[2]

The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act of 1958(2) forbids the selling, storage, purchase, and use of ganja and bhang. The Bombay Prohibition (BP) Act, 1949(3) forbids the manufacture, possession, and use of substances that contain bhang and bhang without a Maharashtra licence.[3]

The legal status of marijuana in other countries

In the United States usage, sale and possession of marijuana is illegal at the federal level. Some states, however, have formed exclusions for medicinal marijuana use, as well as made legal the use of non-medical marijuana. The purchase and possession of cannabis is lawful for both medical and non-medical use in two states, Colorado and Washington. According to the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, cannabis is categorized as a Schedule I drug, stating that it has abuse potential and thus no acceptable medical use.[4]

Marijuana is illegal to own, cultivate, distribute or sell in the United Kingdom without the required licences. It is a Class B drug, with the punishment of up to 14 years in prison for unauthorized trafficking, unauthorized manufacturing and unlicensed trafficking, a maximum amount or both. The maximum penalty is five years in jail for unauthorized or approved possession.[5]

Canada’s legal position of cannabis is at conflict. Issues to cannabis laws at the federal level have not led to the removal of the relevant articles from the Canadian Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Presently cannabis cultivation is illegal in Canada, with one exception being only for medical use.[6]

In Australia, cannabis possession is legalized for individual use in limited quantities in some jurisdictions; the rest of the states remains illegal. Cannabis is decriminalized in Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. In New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania it’s a criminal offence.[7]

Marijuana possession remains illegal, but in Brazil, it has been decriminalised for personal use. Any drug in Brazil for personal use requires a warning, service to society and awareness about the consequences of drug use. The same applies to the seeding and/or preparation of small quantities of any drug.[8]

The legality of marijuana is in dispute in Pakistan, and not decided. There are laws, however, which restrict the sale and abuse of cannabis and are very rarely regulated. As with hash, the regular use of cannabis in social gatherings is widely acknowledged as a custom which is centuries old.[9]

[1] Legalization of Marijuana in India By- Shayan Dasgupta

[2] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985


[4] Marijuana Legalization could be short-lived’ Reuters U.S Edition (2012-11-07)

[5] “Drug Laws”. United Kingdom Home Office





Ayushman Patnaik from Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies, New Delhi

You can find him here

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