Updated: Jul 6, 2020

‘’One of the very most basic of human rights is the right to be healthy and to take care of your health. Nature in all of her wisdom gave us a cure for every ailment there is and every human being has a nature-given, a god-given, a goddess-given right to use the plants that nature has given us’’ Says Steve DeAngelo, star of Discovery’s WEED WARS and Executive Director of the Harborside Health Centre in Oakland, California.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a kind of drug which is prohibited from being consumed, stored, possessed, cultivated, produced, or sold in any form or quantity as per Section 20 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India. There are places where you can still find for it despite being banned: Kerala, Meghalaya, Manipur, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Mysore, even Bihar. Its use is widespread despite being illegal. In Odisha, it is comparatively more acceptable and easier to procure. It has now become a part of a tradition and local hospitality. Smoking culture has evolved in India. Presence of Cannabis or Opium has a long history in India and is not something new. According to Vedas, Cannabis / Marijuana was one of five sacred plants and a guardian angel lived in its leaves. Cannabis is considered by Vedas as a source of happiness, joy-giver, and liberator that helps humans lose their fears and attain delight. Lord Shiva is frequently associated with a kind of cannabis called Bhang. This association has made a lot of Hindu followers to consume bhang during festivals like Shivratri or Holi. Not only it was consumed in India but it was so highly consumed that the British commissioned a large-scale study in the 1890s.

One thing that is now lucid is the fact that usage of cannabis or marijuana isn’t a borrowed habit but a very integral part of Indian tradition. Over the years India tried to deal with marijuana more as a socially unacceptable thing than an economic good. The global legal marijuana market is expected to be touching USD 146.4 billion by the end of 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc.[1] India should move forward and try to capitalize on the huge industry available as it can give a major boost to the economy. Not only can it capitalize on the market but also bring the alternate market (illegal) under its ambit and gain revenue (taxation). The existence of an unregulated market having such high potential is a golden opportunity that the government should try to seize upon because an opportunity lost is like delaying growth. India, if it doesn’t legalize and control the marijuana, then it may miss out on a sector with high market potential. Legalization isn’t only necessary economically but it’s a basic human right that cannot be ignored.

Regulation allows cannabis buyers to know what they’re consuming and moderate their intake, in the same way, that a drinker can distinguish and choose between a whiskey and a beer. Imposing a tax on cannabis sales can create revenue that can be spent on educating people about the risks of cannabis use, as we already do with public service information on alcohol and tobacco,” writes Shashi Tharoor, in The Print.

The Dutch had made a slight change in their policy of prohibiting marijuana. The result was that the removal of criminal prohibition of marijuana didn’t increase the possession or presence of marijuana.[2] This in fact shows that the legalization of marijuana will not just boost the economy but also benefit the health of the individuals in terms of their health and happiness. All that is necessary is adequate planning and the right implementation of the policy or the legislation.

Marijuana vs. Alcohol and Cigarette

Marijuana vs. Alcohol

Alcohol, which is an intoxicant ingredient present in wine, beers, spirit, and other drinks, is a depressant that slows down the body’s system after it reaches the brain. It is a legal recreational substance as drinking it is not life-threatening. Consumption of both marijuana and alcohol leads to short-term and long term effects. When people consume too much alcohol, it may prove to be fatal leading to their death. If the alcohol content is not metabolized as quickly as it is consumed, it affects those parts of the brain that are necessary for survival. In contrast, one can never overdose on marijuana, as its impact is very much subtler. A fatal dose of marijuana would be 15-70gms of TCH content, which is in between 238-1113 joints. That’s a lot to be consumed by a single person in one day.

Intake of both marijuana and alcohol affects the driving functions of a person. Alcohol intake impacts the driving ability of a person by causing the following effects on the body: Slow reaction time, lack of coordination, reduces concentration, decreases vision, and inhibits the ability to make a judgment. The legal limit of BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) as approved by the Union Cabinet is 0.05% or 30mg. Consumption of more than 30mg leads to fatal accidents. Due to an increased awareness of the notion that marijuana results in impairment, its users tend to drive well by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies in more complex tasks that requires conscious control. They drive more slowly, concentrate better on the road, leave adequate space between themselves and the other cars around them, and as such. It is noted that low concentrations of THC do not cause accidents, but in fact, lowers the chances of accidents while the concentration of THC higher than 5 ng/mL leads to an increased risk of accidents. This suggests that keeping 5 ng/mL as the legal limit can regulate marijuana.[3]

Alcohol damages brain health more than marijuana does. Alcohol has long term effects on the brain structure that damages its white and gray matter. Gray matter is a brain tissue that consists of nerve cell bodies. White matter is a deeper tissue in the brain. It contains myelinated nerve fibers that transmit electrical impulses to other cells and tissues. Loss in these tissues leads to impairments in the functioning of the brain. It has proved to cause severe damage to a person. On the other hand, research has proven that marijuana does not impact the gray or white matter of the brain. It leads to no such impairment and is comparatively better to consume than alcohol.

Marijuana is less addictive as compared to alcohol. While thousands of deaths have been accounted for due to alcohol use, no deaths have been documented for marijuana use alone. Due to various reasons as such, it can be very well established that although marijuana may have certain negative consequences, it is nowhere near the negative consequences as alcohol. Either alcohol must be banned by the government in the same way as marijuana is, or marijuana must be regulated in the same way as alcohol is!

Marijuana vs. Cigarette

Cigarette contains psychoactive materials like tobacco, which contains around 7000 chemicals in it that is rolled into thin paper for smoking. Nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, is a very addictive substance that makes all its users highly addicted to smoking cigarettes. It harms nearly every organ in the body and causes many health issues and diseases. It causes more death than death due to HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents combined![4] While smoking, oxygen from the blood is replaced by carbon monoxide due to which organs stop functioning properly. It is very fatal in large doses. Tar, another chemical present in smoking, coats the lungs and affects breathing. Smoking increases the possibility of a brain stroke by 2 to 4 times, which may cause brain damage and death. Smoking makes bones fragile and brittle. It increases heart-related problems and cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart-related chest pain. It causes a lot of other problems such as gum disease, pregnancy-related issues, cancer, and as such. It ages the skin by 10-20 years, making it dull and grey.

Smoking cigarettes causes huge lunge problems that include respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer that accounts for a huge number of deaths. Smoking marijuana can be equally harmful to health if taken in the same quantity as cigarettes are. But as the effect of marijuana stays for longer, people smoke less amount of marijuana as compared to cigarettes, which reduces their risk to lungs due to marijuana. As it is said, ‘one joint is equal to ten cigarettes.’ Nevertheless, marijuana if consumed in any other way than smoking, like in baked goods, edibles, vaporizing, etc. poses no threat as no chemical is added when there is a direct intake of marijuana in contrast to when it is smoked.

The presence of nicotine in tobacco causes health problems such as cancer, and heart diseases. While THC in marijuana is a bronchial dilator that opens up the lungs and clears the smoke and dirt. It causes relaxation, and improves the health and well being. People smoke marijuana as vaporizers, inhalers, water pipes are not easily available as it is illegal. The reason why people don’t eat that is because a large quantity of it required for it to affect your body if taken that way. Due to its illegality, it isn’t cheap, and thereby consuming a large quantity of it becomes expensive. If properly regulated, the more legal marijuana gets, the safer it is.

[1]Legal marijuana market worth $146.4 Billion by 2025| CAGR: 34.6%, GRAND VIEW RESEARCH (April 20, 09:45 PM), [2] R. MacCoun and P. Reuter. 2001. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes. British Journal of Psychiatry 178: 123-128 [3] Sewekk, R Andrew et al, The effect of cannabis compared with alcohol on driving, 18 (3) THE AMERICAN J. ON ADDCTIONS, 185-193, (2009). [4] Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL, Actual causes of death in the United States, JAMA 2004 , 291(10):1238-45.

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