In all of recorded history, not one person has ever died from consuming marijuana, says a public interest litigation that objects to the ban on cannabis or marijuana in India, saying that the move is not backed by scientific evidence.
Marijuana should therefore be legalised in the country so as to help patients, says the petition filed by Aditya Barthakur, a 34-year-old lawyer.
Barthakur added that marijuana has several “benefits” including helping cancer patients by easing their pain.
A small, yet significant development in his case, the petitioner says, is the Bombay High Court’s recent issuing of notices to the Central and state governments.
Quoting from the Atharva Veda, he cites a verse, whose translation, he says, is: “To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak. Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe.”
The lawyer says that the shloka includes, “bhango” which is nothing but hemp or cannabis or marijuana. “It also finds a mention in the Atharva Veda as a divinity and sanctity which shall without doubt free us from bondage and danger,” he says.
Barthakur tries to draw attention of the High Court towards the “fact” that cannabis has “always been” an “integral part” of Hindu culture. He says bhang, an extract of the cannabis plant, is given as an offering to Lord Shiva on Mahashivratri. He also cites an 1894 report of the Government of India, namely the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, on cannabis usage in India.
“The report throws ample light on cannabis, as it explains its religious, cultural significance, medicinal benefits, and, also signifies the fact that cannabis was always an integral part and parcel of almost daily life and culture of the inhabitants / populace of our great nation in those days. So why make it illegal?” asks Barthakur.
He contradicts the observation made in the national policy on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances which says use of cannabis has so far been extremely limited, and, confined to alternate medicine such as homeopathy and Ayurveda. “Such an observation in the said National Policy should be backed by scientific evidence, and, not on mere assumptions or presumptions,” says Barthakur.
He says there are several nations – the US, Uruguay, North Korea, Israel – that have either fully or partially legalised sale and consumption of marijuana.
Wanting an explanation as how was cannabis harmful to humans, he sent numerous applications under the Right to Information Act to various Central government ministries and agencies.
One such reply from the National Institute of Nutrition, he says, “copy-pasted” a reply from the website of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of New Jersey. Another reply from the Central Bureau of Narcotics “just mentioned the provisions of the National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985”.
He lists out 20 different medical conditions such cancer, lung function, epilepsy, etc in which consumption of marujana by patients helps in either cure or easing the pain. Documentaries on the medical benefits of marijuana such as “Weed” by Dr Sanjay Gupta of CNN and Rick Simpson’s “Run from the Cure” have been relied upon as well in his PIL.