India Agrees that Cannabis is Not a Dangerous Narcotic. Navika Kumar Are You Listening

Social Commentary

India Agrees that Cannabis is Not a Dangerous Narcotic. Navika Kumar Are You Listening

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

During the coverage in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, a section of the media spent significant energy to demonise stars as “druggists” and “ganjedis”. WhatsApp chats made it to prime time and actors even talking about “maal” were branded as addicts.

While the Narcotics Control Bureau continues to make high-profile arrests over a few grammes of cannabis possession, India has voted with majority nations at the United Nations to remove cannabis from the list of most dangerous substances.

The decision taken by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) at its 63rd session will lead to changes in the way cannabis is regulated internationally. The countries were sharply divided, with the vote being won by 27 to 25.

“The CND zeroed-in on the decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – where it was listed alongside deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin,” the UN said in a news release on December 2.

A senior diplomat told The Wire that the vote was largely divided between “First World versus developing and Islamic countries”. He stated that India was an “exception” in that regard. The United States and the EU states had supported the proposal, with Russia, China, Japan, Singapore, Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria in the negative aisle.

The World Health Organization had recommended removing cannabis from Schedule IV in January 2019. Their recommendations were based on a report of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, which observed that it did not find evidence that cannabis plant and cannabis resin produced ill-effects similar to other substances in Schedule IV.

Cannabis has now been rescheduled “at a level of control that will prevent harm caused by cannabis use and at the same time will not act as a barrier to access and to research and development of cannabis-related preparation for medical use”. India did not deliver an explanation of its vote, but as per sources, the Indian position was that the medical use of cannabis was “promising”. The recreational use of cannabis will continue to be strictly banned in India.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor pointed out how a similar recommendation by him a couple of years back was not received well. “Now, even as the NCB arrests Bollywood stars for cannabis possession, India has joined a majority in the @UN Drugs Commission to delist it as a dangerous drug. Ah well!” he tweeted.

The move has been hailed as a step in the right direction.

A minute’s silence for Navika Kumar and her primetime pastime of analysing messages and demonising an entire industry.