Cannabis have such a deep connection with religion in India that Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, has been given the title of ‘Lord of Cannabis’.

Cannabis is illegal in India. But still its spread is notable in the social and spiritual landscape of India. It is actually particularly popular among ascetics and monks, and a type called ‘hemp’ is often consumed and offered as part of a celebration. Cannabis have such a deep connection with religion in India that Shiva, one of the major deities of Hinduism, has been given the title of ‘Lord of Cannabis’. And it stems from the plant’s long history in the subcontinent.

The social and spiritual acceptance of cannabis in India since ages

A sun-loving plant, cannabis has its origins in the plains of Central Asia, from where it was brought to India via human migration between 2000 and 1000 BCE. Geographer Barney Warf, in his research paper ‘High Points: An Historical Geography of Cannabis’, states that the plant was introduced to India through a series of Aryan invasions.

However, unlike many other countries where it was transported, “India developed a continuing tradition of psycho-active cannabis cultivation, often with medicinal and religious purposes”. “The cultivation and consumption of marijuana has reached its” greatest uplift “in India …” local farmers often consult specialist poddars or perkadars, known as ‘hemp doctors’, “wrote Warf.

The medicinal and spiritual properties of cannabis are widely found in Vedic literature. For example, in the Atharvaveda, cannabis has been praised for curing diseases and also for fighting demons. A section of a hymn in scripture, as translated by Professor Mark S. Ferrara in his book ‘Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis’, read:

“Cannabis and jangida (herbs) keep me from vishkandha (disease) – that which has brought us from the forest, it has sprouted from the sap of cultivation. “”

Ferrara noted that “practitioners of this ancient religious tradition used cannabis as a medicinal herb, and because of its centrality to charm and mantra, cannabis has the power to eliminate illness, despair, and adversity.” Was considered a ‘holy grass’ “.

One of the most important texts on medicine from the ancient Indian world, the ‘Sushruta Samhita’, written between the third and eighth centuries BCE, recommended hemp for kapha, prathyaya and diarrhea.

Also, the Vedas also describe a strong connection between the deity Shiva and hemp. Sociologist Theodore M. Godlasky, in his 2012 article ‘Shiva, Lord of Bhang’, referred to a popular myth about the deity’s attraction to cannabis. “When the gods shook the heavenly ocean from the summit of Mandara mountain, a drop of nectar (holy nectar) fell from the sky. Where it landed, the first cannabis plant sprouted. Lord Shiva planted the plant for the benefit of mankind. Brought down the Mandara mountain, ”said Godlasky.

Considering its religious importance, weed is also consumed by ascetics or sadhus. More often they smoke the highly resinous buds of the female plant or the resin itself (hashish) into small clay pipes, locally known as chillams. Godlaski described the ritual of chillum smoking in detail: “Chillum smoking is not done alone but in a circle of smoke. The first person fills the bowl and gives it to the second. The second person lifts the bowl on their forehead and a brief formula. Chants, often ‘Bomb Shankar!’ This work is dedicated to Shiva. “

But religious consumption of weed is not limited to ascetics. During festivals such as ‘Shivaratri’ and ‘Kumbh Mela’, cannabis is consumed in abundance and Ganja is lit and removed as a prasad to Shiva. It is important to note that the spiritual intake of cannabis is not limited to Shiva worshipers only, nor does it occur only in the Indian subcontinent. Ferrara wrote, “Cannabis serves as an important sacrament not only for Hindu monks, but also for Islamic Sufis, Chinese Daoists, members of the African Dagga cult, and Jamaican Rastafaris.”

Criminalization of cannabis consumption

The consumption of cannabis in India attracted the attention of Europeans soon after landing. European sailors and explorers often sent back reports of widespread consumption of ‘cannabis’. The 18th-century Portuguese historian García da Orta made this observation when hemp-drinking: “I believe it is commonly and used by so many people that there is no mystery about it.”

The British were also surprised by the popularity of Cannabis in India. In 1798, the British Parliament passed a law to tax cannabis, ganja and charas. The rationale behind the tax as he did it was to reduce the use of cannabis “for the good health and purity of the natives”.

During the 19th century, several attempts were made by the British to declare cannabis in India. In 1894, the government began the most comprehensive study of cannabis consumption in India, its cultivation, trade, as well as health and social effects. The report of Indian Ganja Drugs Commission, 189-1955 concluded:

Looking at the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and excessive use is comparatively exceptional. Moderate use produces practically no ill effects … excessive use. The injury from is almost entirely confined to the consumer; the impact on society is rarely appreciable.

The first real push to criminalize cannabis consumption in the country came in the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which later helped implement the NDPS Act. At this point, it was the United States that played an important role in leading the world towards a prohibitionist approach to drug use. In August this year, a report written by the legal think tank Law Center for Legal Policy stated that India succumbed to international pressure, but disregarded the racist origins of the American War on Drugs. The report states, “The American War on Drugs began as a racist propaganda against the African-American and Hispanic populations.” “This racial bias in drug regulation resulted in arrests of African Americans for cannabis consumption. The numbers have increased, becoming central to major policy reforms in the US.

The Indian delegation at the 1961 session protested its intolerance towards social and religious consumption of cannabis. As a result, when the NDPS Act was enacted in 1985, cannabis was excluded from the definition of cannabis drugs on social grounds. However, handling of a mixture of hashish, hemp, and forms was criminalized.

Despite being illegal, the scarcity in weed popularity can hardly be said. A 2019 report by the National Drug Dependent Treatment Center under AIIMS states that about 7.2 million people in India are addicted to cannabis. Furthermore, in recent years, non-profit organizations and activist groups have been actively campaigning for the legalization of cannabis in the country.

It should also be noted that the impact of the law against cannabis is felt most strongly by the poor and marginalized people in the country. The Law report elaborated, “Our subsequent research suggests that almost every person arrested and convicted for cannabis consumption in Mumbai was a daily wage laborer and a slum or street dweller.” It added: “It shows that the law, although equally applicable at the social and economic level, disproportionately targets the poor and marginalizes the already vulnerable.

Credit to : indianexpress

Use of cannabis leaves in Indian Ayurvedic medicine – validity and limitations

The use of cannabis and cannabis leaves in cannabis medicine in India has caught people’s imagination. Contrary to popular belief, the use and consumption of cannabis and cannabis leaves is not completely prohibited in India. It is permitted for medical and scientific purposes, subject to compliance with applicable laws. In this article, we have discussed the validity of the use of hemp leaves in medicinal and Ayurvedic medicines.

What are the laws governing the use of cannabis leaves in cannabis medicine in India?

There are two sets of laws regulating the use of cannabis leaves in cannabis medicine – the first set of laws treat cannabis leaves as a potential narcotic drug, and the second set of laws treat cannabis leaves as a narcotic and a taxable one. Treats as object, ie. Source of revenue for the government.

Narcotic drugs

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) regulates drug use in India. In the context of cannabis, it identifies three things as narcotics: 1. The cannabis plant as a whole, including its parts such as leaves; 2. Cannabis, i.e., the flower or fruiting top of a cannabis plant when separated from the cannabis plant or not; And 3. The resin of the hemp plant, when separated from the hemp plant (known as charas or hashish).

The NDPS Act considers cannabis leaves as ‘intoxicating drugs’ only when: 1. They are associated with the cannabis plant; 2. When they are separated from the hemp plant but are not separated from its flower or fruiting apex; And 3. If they contain resin from the hemp plant.

Therefore, the leaves of the cannabis plant are not regulated as narcotic drugs in India under the NDPS Act. They are regulated as narcotic drugs only when they are associated with a narcotic drug, ie when they are attached to the cannabis plant or its flower or fruiting apex or when they contain resin from the cannabis plant. This legal position has been upheld by the Indian courts and has been accepted by the Government of India.


Each state of India has an excise law, for example, the Madhya Pradesh Excise Act, 1915. These laws are sometimes called prohibition laws, for example, the Maharashtra Prohibition Act, 1949. The purpose of these laws is to control access to narcotics and to give the state government the authority to levy duty on the manufacture and supply of narcotics.

Almost all state laws in India identify cannabis leaves as narcotics, just as they identify alcohol as a narcotic. This means that cannabis leaves cannot be produced (ie separate from the cannabis plant) or used for commercial purposes without a license. For example, if a drug manufacturer wants to use cannabis leaves in its medicines, it must have the appropriate license to purchase cannabis leaves and use it for medicinal purposes. Needless to say that the manufacturer will also have to pay ‘duty’ (or tax) for the purchase of cannabis leaves.

Why is the use of cannabis leaves more prevalent in Ayurvedic medicine than in medicinal medicines?

The marketing of drugs in India is regulated by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (DCA). Currently, there are no pharmaceutical drugs containing cannabis or hemp leaves (or cannabinoids) approved under DCA for sale in India. If a pharmaceutical manufacturer offers cannabis or cannabis-based medicine in India, it must first conduct a clinical trial of such a drug and establish its safety and efficacy. Clinical trials are an expensive and time-consuming process. Also, cannabis is rarely cultivated officially in India. Therefore, it is difficult to procure standard quality hemp or hemp leaf which may be required in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals containing hemp or hemp leaf or their extracts.

Why do manufacturers choose to use cannabis leaves instead of cannabis in Ayurvedic medicine?

Cannabis contains chemicals that have therapeutic properties. These chemicals are commonly known as cannabinoids. Among the many cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most sought after for their medicinal properties.

Both CBD and THC are found in significant amounts in the flowers and buds of the cannabis plant. Their percentage in the leaves of cannabis plant is relatively negligible.

However, the use of cannabis leaves in cannabis medicine is generally better for cannabis. There are two reasons for this. First, it is relatively easy to buy cannabis leaves as they are not regulated as ‘narcotic drugs’. Second, cannabis-based drugs do not require a license to sell in each state under the NDPS Act, as cannabis-based drugs do.

Are there any specific labeling declarations that apply to manufacturers of Ayurvedic medicines made from cannabis leaves?

Manufacturers of ayurvedic medicines containing hemp leaves or extracts should put the following declaration in English and Hindi on the drug label “Caution: To be used for medical supervision” for internal use of the medicine. According to an advice issued by the Ministry of AYUSH, these drugs should be sold under the prescription of a registered physician. However, they are not required to be labeled as “NRX”, as these drugs are not narcotic drugs.

What are the limitations of the use of cannabis leaves in Ayurvedic medicine?

Manufacturers of ayurvedic medicines containing cannabis leaves or its extracts should be careful not to use resin that may accumulate on the leaves of the cannabis plant for the preparation of medicines. Resin found on any part of the cannabis plant (including leaves) is considered narcotic, and its use in Ayurvedic medicine will make Ayurvedic medicine an alcoholic drug, which in turn provides many additional compliance such as manufacturing quotas, compulsory sales. Will invite license. And record keeping.

When using cannabis leaves or its extracts in medicine, manufacturers should also be careful not to disturb the natural balance of cannabinoids found in the leaves of the cannabis plant. One of the cannabinoids, THC, is known for its psychoactive properties and is regulated as a psychotropic substance under the NDPS Act. If cannabis leaves are used exclusively to extract THC from cannabis leaves for later use in Ayurvedic medicine, there is a risk that Ayurvedic medicine may be regulated as a psychotropic substance under the NDPS Act , Which may invite additional compliance.