Weed campaign prospects hazy

Last Updated : 29 July 2018, 16:23 IST
Last Updated : 29 July 2018, 16:23 IST

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A campaigner wants Karnataka to legalise medical and recreational use of marijuana, but not many are convinced

A campaigner from Bengaluru has recently written to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy seeking permission to grow cannabis, the flowering plant from which ganja is extracted.
Viki Vaurora is the founder of The Great Legalisation Movement India, which seeks legalisation of cannabis for medical and recreation. It is an online community with around 27,000 members.

Nine states in the US have legalised marijuana for recreational use.

“If anyone calls cannabis an addictive drug, I don’t know what to say. Look around us, we humans are addicted to a lot of things like phones and internet but no one says anything.. This is breaking apart families and destroying young minds but no one is saying anything about them,” Viki argues.

He describes the cannabis flower as a nutritional supplement that can help combat diseases and even act as medicine in certain cases.

Cannabis has been in use for thousands of years, says Viki, who wants to grow it and study its benefits.

“We wanted to set up two major institutes: the Indian Hemp Research Institute and Somas Medical Research Institute. Our file was approved by a department within Karnataka and from then on it has been put on hold. It’s been over 600 days with absolutely no reply from the government,” he says.

Viki is going to have a tough time getting people to understand his position though. The resistance to any form of cannabis is deep-rooted and with good reason.

“While we used to get more cases of alcohol addiction earlier, nowadays almost 60 per cent of the cases we get are related to marijuana addiction. It shows that this is popularly abused by the younger generation,” says Rajashekhar Hiremath, director, operations, Cadabams Group.

Many coming to Bengaluru for treatment are from the US, UK, and Maldives, where medical marijuana is legal. “Users are at various levels, with the advanced ones showing psychiatric problems and aggressive behaviour. Most patients come to our centre only at this stage; before that they don’t realise they have a problem,” he says.

Sunil Sinha, zonal director, Narcotics Control Bureau, Bengaluru, says Indian culture is different from American culture and we should first study their society before considering any legalisation.

“I have had parents coming to me complaining that their loved ones are addicted. Marijuana is a gateway drug; once a person starts this, he graduates to other drugs. We should stop it at the source,” he says.

He is sceptical about the clamour for legalisation of marijuana. “They push it saying it is safe, it can be used by cancer patients and so on. If it has so many medicinal properties, why haven’t the huge pharma companies with their R&D budgets used it yet? There has to be some problem or they would have used it by genetic manipulation or by creating a hybrid,” he says.

UK joins bandwagon

Senior doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines in the UK later this year after the government agreed a ban. It follows recent high-profile cases in which children with severe epilepsy were initially denied access to cannabis oil to control seizures.

Many names

Cannabis refers both to the plant and the psychotropic drug extracted from it. It goes by many names: marijuana, ganja, charas, bhang, and bhangi. It is consumed by smoking or vaporising, added to food, or used as a medicinal extract. Use of cannabis results in a ‘high’ or ‘stoned’ feeling, a general change in perception, heightened mood, and an increase in appetite. Onset of effects is within minutes when smoked, and about 30 to 60 minutes when cooked and eaten. They last for between two and six hours, according to Wikipedia.

What netas say

MPs have been debating ganja over the years. Last year, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi extended her support for the campaign to legalise marijuana for medical purposes.
Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, MP from Patiala, moved a bill to legalise the possession as well as consumption of marijuana and other ‘non-synthetic’ intoxicants.
He was supported by late actor and BJP MP Vinod Khanna as well as Tathagata Satpathy, a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Odisha. Recently, Shashi Tharoor has tweeted in support of marijuana legalisation.

The different forms

Cannabis exists in both forms, male and female. If you take the parts of an unfertilised female cannabis plant, and crush/rub them, it will give you weed (ganja). The resin of that plant makes charas. Refined charas is called dhoor. If you take a normal, fertilised male/female cannabis plant, and perform the same process, it makes Marijuana. Mixing marijuana with milk and some herbs will give you bhaang. The effects of these differ from person to person.

It’s banned

Currently possession, trade, transport and consumption of marijuana (among other narcotic and psychotropic substances) is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

Published 29 July 2018, 12:18 IST

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