ACCESS TO MARIJUANA: A Basic Human Right??

Updated: Jul 6, 2020


Not all intoxicants cause crime. That’s the case with marijuana that is rather beneficial to both individuals and the economy. It was banned due to various political reasons and all these years the people were denied of their right to life and health as guaranteed by the UN Convention and the Indian Constitution. Rather than restricting marijuana, the government can impose certain regulatory measures to ensure a balance is maintained between the right of a person to consume it and state’s interest of protecting its citizens. Unlike alcohol or cigarette, marijuana brings with itself a lot of medicinal uses and its ban seems absolutely unfair and illogical. Marijuana has proven to be much more beneficial than the substances mentioned above. Presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC), and cannabidiol (CBD) in it provides wide-ranging benefits to the individuals’ life and health. Legalization of marijuana also offers the government a huge opportunity of expanding its treasury by collecting revenue in the form of tax receipts, thereby boosting the economy and increasing the GDP. Every human has a right to live a life with dignity and happiness. That’s the least of the human rights he should be assured of. Living happily is a relative term but it shall definitely include recreational activities. Marijuana therefore being a recreational activity, and being beneficial to individuals’ health and the economy, should be legalized to ensure basic human rights are granted to everyone.

Benefits of Marijuana to the Individuals

· Studies indicate that marijuana users have comparatively lower body mass than nonusers. It is argued that marijuana users inculcate snacking behavior that in turn increases their body mass. But according to a study, there is no effect on food intake on normal individuals that consume low doses of it.[1]

· The good part about its usage (oral and smoked cannabinoids) by HIV/AIDS and cancer patients is that it increases food and calorie intake in them and thereby helps them in gaining weight and body mass. Marijuana is also promising as a means of treating nausea among cancer patients.[2]

· It is an anti-depressant and changes mood causing feelings of energy and relaxation. It changes perceptions and increases the creativity of a person. Other psychoactive effects include sensory perception, euphoria, concentration, coordination, and changes in blood pressure.[3]

· It kills cancer cells in leukemia patients and is helpful in curing lowered intraocular eye pressure, pain, inflammation, muscle control problems, controlling epileptic seizures, mental disorders, migraine as well as general analgesic effects.[4]

· Endocannabinoid, a chemical compound in the brain that is linked to feelings of overall well being, becomes lower during chronic stress. Marijuana contains THC that activates the same receptors as endocannabinoids. Therefore, it can be used in restoring endocannabinoids function and diminishing symptoms of depression.

· Numerous pre-clinical investigations in the U.S.A have validated the role of endocannabinoids in preventing headache disorders like migraine, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, chronic headaches, cluster headache, medication overuse headache, and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. This suggests that a mechanistic role of cannabis (containing THC that activates the same receptors as endocannabinoids) can be used to cure headache disorder.[5] It also helps in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as endocannabinoid plays a role in it.

· A person going through spinal cord injury has to deal with chronic pain, muscle spasms, spasticity, and experience difficulty in sleep every day. Cannabis is well known for treating chronic pain as it activates specific receptors around the central nervous system that helps relieve pain. It triggers a neuroprotective response that is very helpful for people suffering from such an injury. It also improves muscle spasticity, sleep, and motor functions.[6]

· Marijuana can be used to control the use of other harmful drugs as it has fewer side effects and is better symptom management. It can be used as an alternative for alcohol, cigarettes, and other illicit drugs.

· Marijuana can help prevent diabetics as it stabilizes blood sugar levels, lowers arterial inflammation due to its antioxidant properties, reduces neuropathic pain, provides relief from muscle cramps, relieves gastrointestinal pain and cramping, and keeps blood vessels open which reduces blood pressure over time and improves circulation.

· Cerebral malaria is a life-threatening disease that affects over half a million children every year and can affect the sufferer throughout the course of their life. It has the potential to cause permanent neurological and behavioral deficits. It has been discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) can decrease the neurological damage caused by this disease.

· Studies show that the legalization of marijuana shall lead to a decrease in traffic fatalities, reduction in rates of homicide and assault, and improvement in creativity. It is also proven that one can never overdose on marijuana.

Benefits of Marijuana to the Economy

Legalization of marijuana not only grants one a basic human right but also brings with itself a major economic boost. At once it brings the complete black market of marijuana under the regulation of government. The most direct and immediate impact would be in the form of increased tax revenue. Legalization of marijuana has an important advantage over restriction because it allows the Government to collect taxes from the legalized drug. A huge black market of marijuana in India indicates that legalizing the drug can significantly benefit the government. Currently, the price of marijuana is high due to it being illegal and having high demand with limited supply. Due to this, the free market price of marijuana would be much lower than the current level of price. This gives the government an opportunity to levy high taxes on marijuana post-legalization also ensuring it gives proper competition to alcohol, tobacco, and other intoxicants.

The taxation revenue of legalized marijuana products has already been proven in Colorado, in the United States, where marijuana is legalized since January 1, 2014. Colorado became one of the first states in the United States to allow for legal buying and selling of marijuana. The results from Colorado’s first two years of legalization show significant monetary tax revenue. With recreational and medicinal sales reaching almost $1 billion in 2015, Colorado collected more than $135 million in tax revenue and fees.[7] If a state of the USA is able to make such huge economic benefits, then a huge country like ours shall ensure it makes most out of this opportunity. The generated tax revenue from marijuana can be used for the state’s public school capital construction assistance fund and public programs such as substance abuse and regulation of marijuana use. This will ensure positive income along with a considerable economic boost. This ensures that its own generated tax revenue can be used for the adverse effects caused by the legalization.[8]

Apart from the tax benefits it also ensures that the government reduces its spending as it would have on prohibiting marijuana pre-legalization. Setting up marijuana nurseries and dispensaries would be the first step for the states that voted in favor of medical marijuana. This would not only create job opportunities but would also give rise to economic activities around it. In the case of states like California and Nevada where such infrastructure already exists, the economic impact has become more quantifiable as the sector has matured.[9] Now that the economy has included this sector, the workers who weren’t included in the workforce earlier by economists will now be included. This will give a boost to the GDP of the nation. Legalization with itself brings in the whole chain of manufacturers, traders, agents, and for obvious the consumers. This in turn generates a considerable amount. It also could help to secure the investment portfolios of investors across the country and further afield as well.

While marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, it is difficult for investors to capitalize on the growth of the industries. Should marijuana become legal on the national level, marijuana companies would be free to list their stocks on all exchanges, thereby enhancing liquidity and opening up access to many more investors. Should the growth rates for the cannabis space continue as they have in recent years, it's likely that investors would express a keen interest in the industry.

Basic human right

Right to health, which is a basic human right under Article 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and WHO Constitution, and is also a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, allows for a broader conception of ‘health’. The conflict here is between the state’s interest (that restricts the use of marijuana to protect the health, welfare, morality, and/or safety of its own citizens) and individual’s right (right to privacy and to be left alone unless it harms anybody else). The definition of health constitutes both externalist (biological condition) and internists' (social condition) view. While the former is supported by the state, individuals support the latter. Determination of what constitutes as ‘good health’ is a crucial tension and it is important to consider the definition of health given by WHO as it is helpfully broad: ‘a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. The definition clearly states that it is important for the state to consider both the externalist views that can focus on what they believe to be good for citizens and the internist view of what is beneficial for the individuals. While restrictions can be imposed, a total ban on the use of marijuana is completely unfair and violates the basic human right to health.

The history of the ban on marijuana provides that there was no appropriate scientific or legal standing for the imposition of its ban. The first-ever policy formed for the restriction of marijuana is the Marijuana Tax Act, 1937 in the USA. After the Mexican revolution in the 1900s, the Mexicans brought their native language, customs, and traditions into the American country. The use of marijuana as a medicine and relaxant was one of their customs. The ban of marijuana was mainly to demonize Mexicans and the leading charge given against it was criminal insanity, moral decline, and its role as a gateway to other drugs. It has been done with no scientific backing to prove the same.[10] Since it’s ban in the USA, India was pressurized by them as they were campaigning for a global law against all drugs. Therefore, the Rajiv Gandhi government enacted a law called Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act in 1985.

The right to health is incorporated in the constitution under Article 21 to attain the highest attainable mental and physical health. A healthy mind and body lead to a healthy and happy life. In the case of Vincent Parikurlangara v. UOI,[11] the Supreme Court held that the right to maintenance and improvement of public health is included in the right to live with human dignity enshrined in Art. 21. The foundation for all human activities is a healthy body. In a welfare state, this is the obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustaining of conditions congenial to good health. The right to health and medical care was upheld as a fundamental right even in the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India.[12] The right to life with human dignity encompasses within its fold, some of the finer facets of human civilization that makes life worth living.[13] Marijuana users tend to enjoy their use. It can also be used to treat a lot of diseases or health problems. It is not justified how marijuana is banned for no proper reason. Our country needs to give a close look at its history and realize that as there is no apt reason for its ban, it is now time to legalize it and protect the basic human right of the citizens as enshrined upon them by the constitution.

[1] Foltin RW, Brady JV, Fischman MW. Behavioral analysis of marijuana effects on food intake in humans, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1986, 2:577-582. [2] Haney M, Effects of smoked marijuana in healthy and HIV+ marijuana smkokers, J Clin Pharmacol, 2002; 42:34S-40S. Also refer, Voth EA,Schwartz RH, Medicinal applications of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana, Ann Intern Med, 1997; 126:791-798. [3] Fusar-Poli P, Crippa JA, Bhattacharyya S, et al., Distinct effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol on Neutral Activation during Emotional Processing, Archives of General Psychiatry 66 (1); 95-105. [4] Carly Schwartz, Marijuana May Stop The Spread of HIV, Study Finds, The Hiffington Post (April, 1, 2019, 04:16 PM), https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2014/02/11/marijuana-hiv_n_4767901.html. Also refer Marijuana as Medicine, National Institute of Drug Abuse (April 2, 2019, 08:18 PM) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine. [5] Russo E, Hemp for Headache: an in-depth historical and scientific review of cannabis in migraine treatment, J Cannabis Ther, 2001; 1:21-92. [6] Rachel Garland, The Astounding Ways Cannabis Can Treat Spinal Cord Injuries, GREEN FLOWER (May 20, 09:25 PM), https://www.green-flower.com/articles/261/the-astounding-ways-cannabis-can-treat-spinal-cord-injuries [7] Marijuana Tax Data, COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE (may 15, 05:27 PM), https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data Also refer, Marijuana Taxes, Licenses, and Fees Transfers and Distribution, COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE (May 15, 05:45PM), https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/1215MarijuanaTax%2CLicense%2CandFeesReport.pdf [8] See id. [9] Mrinalani Krishna, The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed, INVESTOPEDIA (May 16 12:30 PM), https://www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/110916/economic-benefits-legalizing-weed.asp [10] James B. Slaughter, Marijuana Prohibition in the United States: History and Analysis of a Failed Policy, 21 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 417, 474 (1988) [11](1987) 2 SCC 165. [12] (1995) 3 SCC 42. [13] DR. J. N. PANDEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA, 288 (Dr. Surendra Sahai Srivastava, 55 ed. 2018)

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