Have you ever had “bhang” as lassi or thandai during Holi, the Indian ‘festival of colours’? Many of us have despite knowing that it is a mixture of milk, spices, and cannabis leaves (also known as marijuana plant).
Cannabis has been a part of India for decades, particularly in Hinduism. It is widely known that bhang is considered as the favourite drink of lord Shiva.
In India, Marijuana is banned but the consumption of “bhang” is not. It is quite perplexing since both are manufactured from the cannabis plant.
The reason behind this is the popular case of Arjun Singh vs. State of Haryana, where the Punjab and Haryana High Court, under the restrictions of the law, said, “It is illegal to grow the cannabis plant but it is not illegal to consume its leaves”. This verdict made “bhang” the official legal drink of the Holi festival.
What Does The Law Say?
The Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985 is the central law that deals with the possession of cannabis (weed or marijuana) in India.
Different states may have their own laws, but in general, possession of these drugs is illegal in India and is considered as a criminal offence.
Under the NDPS Act, cannabis is divided into two parts,
(i) the ‘flowering or fruiting top’ of the cannabis plant out of which resin has not been extracted and
(ii) seeds and leaves which do not form the part of the top.
The NDPS strictly prohibits the consumption, production, sale, or purchase of the first part (resin and flowers) but the use of seeds and leaves is totally legal within the states that have the power to regulate and form the state rules relating to the drug.
Bhang is legal in India simply because it is contrived from the leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant. Therefore, it is openly consumed in India in various cultural festivals. On the other hand, any weed or ganja extracted from the flowering part of the plant is illegal in India.
Marijuana As A ‘Prasad’?
It is evident from above that possession of marijuana is banned in India. However, in the Mouneshwara temple at Tinthini in Yadgir district Karnataka, marijuana is openly distributed and consumed/smoked by the devotees after praying to the lord Mouneshwara during an annual fair in January.
According to a report of Times of India, among various traditions like Sharana, Aruda, Shaptha, and Avadhuta, devotees consume marijuana or weed as a form of ‘prasad’ believing that it could help in achieving enlightenment.
‘Marijuana prasad’ is also frequently distributed at some ashrams and temples in Yadgir and Raichur districts of Karnataka. However, the temple authorities and saints have negated the sale of marijuana to outsiders for recreational purposes.
Gangadhar Nayak, one of the members of the temple committee said, “The devotees and saints believe this sacred grass shows the path to enhancing knowledge of spirituality”. He added, “During the fair, anybody can come here and smoke. While some eat ganja after boiling it, others consume it like tobacco powder.” (sic)
The use of marijuana or cannabis varies with its flowering part and the leaves. However, the flowering part (bud) is more expensive and costs around Rs. 4,000-5,000 per gram.
The Karnataka police have been cracking down on the distribution of this psychoactive drug, amid the case of Sandalwood drug racket in Bengaluru. However, no major recoveries have been developed in the case.
Will marijuana ever be legalized in India? It’s quite uncertain. But currently, marijuana is illegal, therefore the government should take strict actions and put a halt on the act of offering marijuana as a ‘prasad’.
Image credits: Google Images
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