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India: Make marijuana legal for medical needs: Maneka Gandhi

Times of India

Monday 31 Jul 2017

Union women and child Development minister Maneka Gandhi has suggested legalising marijuana, a psychoactive drug, for medical purposes in India, a step taken by several countries.

The suggestion was made by Maneka at the second meeting of a group of ministers (GOM) that examined the draft Cabinet note for the National Drug Demand Reduction Policy, according to the minutes.

The GoM approved the draft policy with minor modifications in keeping with suggestions made at the meeting, which was chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh.

Maneka said at the GoM that in "some of the developed countries like the US, marijuana has been legalised, which ultimately results in less drug abuse". "The possibility of the same may be explored in India", she added.

When asked to elaborate, Maneka said that "marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in cancer (treatment)".

During the meeting, she also stressed the need to regulate the sale and availability of pharmaceutical drugs, such as codeine cough syrups and inhalants, among others, that are being abused. The draft policy for drug demand reduction seeks to address the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country.

Referring to a national survey on drug abuse conducted by the ministry of social justice in collaboration with AIIMS, Maneka suggested that the possibility of setting up deaddiction centres near railway stations should be explored to cater to children living in and around the premises.

Social justice and empowerment secretary G Latha Krishna Rao said "it may not be appropriate to legalise such drugs" in view of the low level of literacy in India, but added that the possibility could be explored in future.

Times View

The minister is right in suggesting that the use of marijuana for medical purposes should be legalised. Several countries have done this, as have some states in the US.

But we would suggest the government go a step further and decriminalise possession of small quantities of the substance for personal use, even if it's for recreational purposes. This again is something several countries have done.

The advantage of doing so is that if the consumption of such 'soft drugs' is not treated as a crime but the use of harder drugs is, users have reason to think twice before graduating to hard drugs. If both are treated as criminal, that is not the case.




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