India’s Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has voiced her support of medical marijuana in her country. Gandhi put forth legalization suggestions at a group of ministers meeting, where they were analyzing the draft cabinet note National Drug Demand Reduction Policy.
Gandhi’s marijuana support comes as inspiration from the West, seeing the effects legalization has made in countries around the world including the United States. Gandhi cited how legalization cuts down drug abuse in legalized countries and that it could help medical patients.
According to notes from the Press Trust of India, Gandhi informed the meeting that “some of the developed countries like the US, marijuana has been legalised which ultimately results in less drug abuse.” She also added, “the possibility of the same maybe explored in India.”
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When asked by the PTI to elaborate on such comments, Gandhi said, “marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in cancer.”
Currently Indians receive harsh punishments as it relates to cannabis, thanks to the 1985 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The law stipulates that cannabis consumption could lead to six months of jail or a fine of Rs10,000. Illegal production and cultivation of cannabis can result in up to 10 years in prison.
This isn’t the first time a politician from India has vocalized support for cannabis. Back in November, Parliament member Dharamvir Gandhi sought to introduce a private bill that would “permit authorised and monitored sale of soft drugs and seeks to legitimise cultivation, production, possession, manufacture, sale, transport, and inter-state export, import, use and consumption of such soft drugs.”
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Even before that senior parliamentarian Tathagata Satpathy tried to change the country’s cannabis laws in 2015, criticizing their current structure as “elitist.”
Not all are in favor, however. In the same meeting Maneka Gandhi put forth cannabis legalization, Social Justice and Empowerment Secretary G Latha Krishna Rao tried to shoot down such efforts. According to the PTI, she said, “ ‘it may not be appropriate to legalise’ such drugs” in view of the large population and low level of literacy in the country and added that the possibility could be explored in future.”