Bill to Legalize Marijuana in India Headed to Parliament

A private member’s bill to legalize marijuana in India will be introduced to Parliament during the winter session this year, after clearing the legislative branch of government on Nov. 1.

MP Dharamvira Gandhi, the politician behind the bill, is a retired cardiologist and longtime supporter of both the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis.

Gandhi has argued that India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 (NDPS) did not yield its intended results, as the demand for drugs remains the same. This bill is intended to alter how India handles the issue by eliminating criminal penalties and regulating a legal cannabis market for medical and recreational use.


Gandhi’s bill seeks to differentiate between hard and soft drugs to create a legal landscape for the latter of the two. He has also been a vocal supporter of medical cannabis for many years.

The 30 years’ period of enactment and implementation of NDPS Act has produced results contrary to the desired results,” said Gandhi in November.


“Thirty years down the line, where do we stand? The fact of the matter is that the NDPS Act has not only failed in achieving its professed goals, but this war on drugs has delivered results directly opposite to what it aimed to achieve. There can be no better verdict and/or evaluation of such punitive drug laws than frank admission statement of the United Nations Conference on 12th March 2009, admitting that the war on drugs has failed,” he said.

The legalization of cannabis in India has a significant show of support in government. In 2013, a petition was presented to India’s constitutional court to remove cannabis from the NDPS.

More recently in August 2017, India’s Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, called for the legalization of medical marijuana. Also in August, the government issued a license to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to cultivate cannabis in order to study its applications for the treatment of epilepsy and chemotherapy-induced side effects.


India’s former commissioner of the Central Bureau of Narcotics, Romesh Bhattacharji, has spoken in favor of cannabis reform.

It is too early to tell how this new legislation will perform during the parliamentary process in December. If the support behind the bill is any indication, India could join a rapidly expanding group of countries that have come to the conclusion that marijuana prohibition has been an abject failure.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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