6th SEPTEMBER 1961 – 28th MAY 1966 D.N. KOHLI COMMISSIONER OF NARCOTICS

Should we not legalize recreational use of Cannabis?

NEW DELHI: What two American states, Washington and Colorado, have decided to do – legalize recreational use of marijuana – was the norm in India until 1985. All cannabis derivatives – marijuana (grass or ganja), hashish (charas) and bhang – were legally sold in this country. As a matter of fact, most state governments had their own retail shops to sell these drugs. India has known, consumed and celebrated ganja, charas and bhang for millennia.

Their consumption was never regarded as socially deviant behaviour any more than drinking alcohol was. If there was any bias against ganja or charas, it was that these were often viewed as the poor man’s intoxicant by the upper classes. But come Holi, these prejudices would melt away as rich and poor savoured the joyous high of bhang. Even now, despite a legal ban, recreational use of these drugs is widespread in India.

Keeping marijuana legal was actually an enlightened view. It is now medically proven that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. In fact, the good weed has medical uses (as many as 19 US states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes). However, moderation is the key. While excessive and sustained consumption of alcohol can cause severe liver damage leading to death, excessive use of marijuana too can cause some damage, mainly to our sensory abilities. In moderation, marijuana is a gentle mood-altering relaxant.

So, if there is a rational policy towards intoxicants and we allow the sale and consumption of liquor, there is no good reason to not similarly allow sale and consumption of marijuana, hashish and bhang. For years, India has held this position. For 25 years since 1961, it has withstood American pressure to keep marijuana legal. Which brings us to the story of why it was banned in India.

Since 1961, the US has been campaigning for a global law against all drugs, both hard and soft. Given that ganja, charas and bhang were a way of life in India, we opposed the drastic measure. But by the early ’80s, American society was grappling with some drug problems and opinion had grown against the “excesses” of the hippie generation. In 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government buckled under the pressure and enacted a law called the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

It was a poor law that clubbed marijuana, hashish and bhang with hard drugs like smack, heroin, cocaine and crack, and banned them all. The minimum punishment for violation of the NDPS Act was 10 years of jail (it has since been relaxed and the crackdown on marijuana has eased somewhat). What happened as a result of this law was that almost overnight the entire trade shifted from peddling grass or charas to smack or worse. This was because while the risk was the same, profits from the hard-killer drugs were ten times higher.

And suddenly, there was a drugs problem in India. In cities like Delhi, for instance, smack addiction grew. The addicts were mostly poor people – those who had earlier smoked grass were now ‘chasing’ smack. Newspapers reported cases of men selling off all household goods to get money for a fix. What is significant is that instances of deviant behaviour were rare when marijuana, hashish and bhang were legal. The poorly thought-out NDPS Act had actually created a drugs problem where there was none.

Twenty seven years later, now that some American states have “shown the way”, it is time to revisit the ban. When ganja, charas and bhang don’t have obvious medical negatives and don’t lead to addiction or violent behaviour (which alcohol may be accused of doing), why then should it not be legal as it was in India for centuries? Especially, when there is no social or cultural rejection of them. On the contrary, it is a way of life in our country. Poorly thought-out laws lead to corruption and the harassment of ordinary people. It also tells on the health of the nation. Instead, the NDPS Act should be amended and soft drugs such as ganja, charas and bhang should be made legal.

What is cannabis?

Drug produced from the Cannabis sativa (commonly known as hemp) or Cannabis indica and ruderalis Common names – bhang, hasish, hash, marijuana, charas, ganja. Also referred to as pot, grass, weed, hash. Has nearly 200 other names, marijuana one of them Plant related to nettles and hops, believed to have originated in India (Central & south Asia) Grows wild in many parts of the world The weed has been around for more than 5,000 yrs Key ingredient in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabino (THC). Cannabidiol another active component Amount of THC determines drug’s strength The two components affect certain brain regions causing relaxation, introspective state, lowering of worry, hunger and finally sleep Effect lasts 2-3 hrs if smoked or up to 24 hrs if ingested (as in bhang) Derivatives of plant used for both medicinal and recreational purposes Third most consumed recreational drug after alcohol and tobacco Non-toxic in reasonable amounts; very low addiction rate Hemp – one of the oldest known rope making material obtained from the stems of Cannabis plants

Medical uses

Chemicals (collectively called cannabinoids) activate receptors in body Affect central nervous system and immune system Can control nausea and vomiting Affect appetite Control cancer symptoms Pain, anxiety and muscle spasticity Can reduce chemotherapy side effects

Findings on its use in treating 10 conditions

Migraine | Multiple Sclerosis | Asthma | Stroke | Parkinson’s disease| Alzheimer’s disease | Alcoholism| Insomnia | Glaucoma | OCD

Its forms

Flowers, buds and leaves contain the active substances Herbal (dried plant material) | Resin (from buds) | Powder and oil

Effects & uses

Most widely used for its relaxing properties Usually rolled into cigarettes as a joint, can be smoked in a pipe, brewed as tea mixed with food Acts as mild sedative, leaving most feeling relaxed, chilled out or just sleepy Has mild hallucinogenic effects Makes some more animated Reduces inhibitions Can reduce nausea

Why legalize it

*Pot causes dependence but doesn’t kill

*It cannot lead to a fatal overdose as you need to consume 1500 pounds in 15 minutes for it to be fatal

*Caffeine is supposed to be just as addictive as marijuana

*But authorities bunch marijuana with the likes of heroin and cocaine

*Growing body of research on medical benefits and safety of marijuana

*Public opinion wants marijuana decriminalized

*Advocates of medical marijuana say patients suffering from host of diseases such as AIDS, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s can’t get benefit of marijuana because it’s illegal

Top stories

Recreational use of marijuana: Of highs and laws

10 Nov 2012, 1129 hrs IST

Recreational use of marijuana: Of highs and lawsThe 1961 “single convention on narcotic drugs” was the first ever international treaty to have clubbed cannabis (or marijuana) with hard drugs and imposed a blanket ban on their production and supply except for medicinal and research purposes

Mankind and grass go back 5,000 years

10 Nov 2012, 1122 hrs IST

Mankind and grass go back 5,000 yearsMost ancient cultures have recorded its magical properties, ancient languages have names for it. Yet, cannabis is officially counted as a villain, its use banned in most countries.

Hope for dope: Alcoholics face a greater risk than marijuana users, doctors insist

10 Nov 2012, 1118 hrs IST

Hope for dope: Alcoholics face a greater risk than marijuana users, doctors insistDoctors dealing with deaddiction say cases of marijuana addiction are rare, if not nonexistent, but feel its use might become a “gateway” for harder drugs like smack, heroin and cocaine.

Recreational use of marijuana: Always a way of life in our country

10 Nov 2012, 1126 hrs IST

Recreational use of marijuana: Always a way of life in our countryThe Vedas refer to cannabis as one of the five sacred plants.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.- Albert Einstein

CannabisCocaOpium Poppy

INTRODUCTION

Nature is rich in diversity. There are many different botanicals that have many different uses. Mankind has long sought to harness plants for a variety of purposes. Scientists have conducted research to discover new medicines and cures from plants across the globe.

For centuries there has been cultivation of cannabis, coca, and the opium poppy. From the opium poppy has come morphine drips in hospitals, from the coca plant has come cocaine which is used in certain medical surgeries, and from the cannabis plant has come various hemp products. While these plants have provided useful products, they are also among nature’s most addicting and potentially deadly plants. This exhibit provides an overview of these “Big Three” addictive plants.

There is a constant search for medicines that will improve the quality of life, manage or alleviate pain, and cure diseases. Botanicals are one source for those medicines. They can also be sources for other products and chemicals. Some plants have many serious side effects. With cannabis, coca, and the opium poppy, the challenge is a balance between using the products from the plant for their intended use in a safe manner, while avoiding the illegal use and abuse that has had so many detrimental effects on society over the centuries.

Learn. Discover. Understand. Explore.

  • Learn about the history of these three plants and their cultivation for use.

  • Discover the science behind their effects on various parts of the body.

  • Understand the work of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) across the globe to make available enough of the plant’s products to meet America’s legitimate needs, while battling the illegal trafficking of the drugs.

  • Explore the potential consequences of their misuse. Cannabis, coca, and poppy are indeed among nature’s most addictive plants.

Cannabis, Coca, & Poppy:
Nature’s Addictive Plants

HISTORY

Poppy flower

The Origins of Opium

The earliest reference to opium growth and use is in 3,400 B.C. when the opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia). The Sumerians referred to it as Hul Gil, the “joy plant.” The Sumerians soon passed it on to the Assyrians, who in turn passed it on to the Egyptians. As people learned of the power of opium, demand for it increased. Many countries began to grow and process opium to expand its availability and to decrease its cost. Its cultivation spread along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean through Asia and finally to China where it was the catalyst for the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s.

Farmer harvesting poppies

From Seed to Sale

Today, heroin’s long journey to drug addicts begins with the planting of opium poppy seeds. Opium is grown mainly by impoverished farmers on small plots in remote regions of the world. It flourishes in dry, warm climates and the vast majority of opium poppies are grown in a narrow, 4,500-mile stretch of mountains extending across central Asia from Turkey through Pakistan and Burma. Recently, opium has been grown in Latin America, notably Colombia and Mexico. The farmer takes his crop of opium to the nearest village where he will sell it to the dealer who offers him the best price.

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The Silk Road

The Silk Road is an 18th-century term for a series of interconnected routes that ran from Europe to China. These trade routes developed between the empires of Persia and Syria on the Mediterranean coast and the Indian kingdoms of the East. By the late Middle Ages the routes extended from Italy in the West to China in the East and to Scandinavia in the North. Opium was one of the products traded along the Silk Road.

Opium wars in the mid-1800s

Opium Wars

In order to fund their ever-increasing desire for Chinese produced tea, Britain, through their control of the East India Company, began smuggling Indian opium to China. This resulted in a soaring addiction rate among the Chinese and led to the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s. Subsequent Chinese immigration to work on the railroads and the gold rush brought opium smoking to America.

Opium den mid-1800s

Opium Dens

Opium dens were established as sites to buy and sell opium. Dens were commonly found in China, Southeast Asia, the United States, and parts of Europe. Chinese immigrants came to the United States in the Mid-1800s to work for railroads and the Gold Rush and brought the habit of opium smoking with them. Opium dens sprang up in San Francisco’s Chinatown and spread eastward to New York.

Chinese antique opium pipe set, ca. 1821

Chinese Style Opium Pipes

This antique opium pipe set, ca. 1821, highlights the exquisite details that could be afforded by rich Chinese opium smokers.

Opium smoking equipment

Opium Smoking Equipment

In addition to the traditional pipe, opium smokers could also use a lamp for heating the opium as well as various tools to manipulate the gummy substance.

Scales and the elephant-shaped gold weights

Weights and Scales

These scales and the elephant-shaped gold weights were used to accurately measure opium for sale.

MEDICAL USE

Opium plant anatamy illustration

Opium-An Ancient Medicine

Opium was known to ancient Greek and Roman physicians as a powerful pain reliever. It was also used to induce sleep and to give relief to the bowels. Opium was even thought to protect the user from being poisoned. Its pleasurable effects were also noted. The trading and production of opium spread from the Mediterranean to China by the 15th century. Opium has many derivatives, including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin. Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé.

Morphine

Morphine

In 1803, morphine, the principal ingredient in opium, was extracted from opium resin. Morphine is ten times more powerful than processed opium, quantity for quantity. Hailed as a miracle drug, it was widely prescribed by physicians in the mid-1800s. Morphine is one of the most effective drugs known for the relief of severe pain and remains the standard against which new pain relievers are measured.

Codeine

Codeine

Codeine, another component of opium, is medically prescribed for the relief of moderate pain and cough suppression. It has less pain-killing ability than morphine and is usually taken orally. As a cough suppressant, it is found in a number of liquid preparations.

Heroin

Heroin

First synthesized from morphine in 1874, the Bayer Company of Germany introduced heroin for medical use in 1898. Physicians remained unaware of its addiction potential for years, but by 1903, heroin abuse had risen to alarming levels in the United States. All use of heroin was made illegal by federal law in 1924.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone

Oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, a third component of opium. Like morphine, it is used for pain relief. Oxycodone is taken orally. When abused, the tablets are crushed and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected.

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Opium: A Schedule II Drug

Oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, a third component of opium. Like morphine, it is used for pain relief. Oxycodone is taken orally. When abused, the tablets are crushed and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected.

Current Medical Use

Opium (and the majority of its derivatives, with the exception of heroin which is Schedule I), is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance because of its medical benefit but potential for abuse. However, various opium derivatives manufactured in combination with other medical substances (like Tylenol with Codeine) may be assigned to Schedule III, IV, or V under the Controlled Substances Act

FORMS

Poppies as Food

Besides being used for drug manufacturing, the poppy is also the source of poppy seeds which are greatly prized as a food source. Items such as poppy seed bagels and lemon poppy seed cake are sought after for their delicious flavors.

Poppy seeds

Poppy Seeds for Cooking

Poppy seeds for use in cooking can be purchased at local markets. The majority of poppy seeds used for food come from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. Although these seeds do have opium content, the amount used for cooking purposes is extremely small. Consumption of poppy seeds can produce a positive result on drug tests.

Poppy garden

Poppies for the Garden

Poppy flowers come in a variety of colors and are prized for the beauty they bring to the landscape. In several states, various species of poppies are planted along the sides of highways for erosion control, for example, the red corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas). Although the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) has the highest concentration of narcotics, all poppies in the Papaver genus do contain some amount of narcotic.

Poppy seed perennial packets

Growing Poppies

Poppy seed packets can be purchased at many local shops that sell gardening supplies.

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