Indian Minister Advocates For Medical Cannabis

Maneka Gandhi
Image: Bollywood Hungama

An Indian Minister wants to see cannabis legally used as medicine in her country, and suggested fellow ministers look to examples set in other nations.

According to a news item published by the Press Trust of India, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi proposed legalising medical cannabis at a meeting of a group of ministers discussing the National Drug Demand Reduction Policy.

“Marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in cancer,” said Minister Gandhi in follow up comments to PTI.

The plant has been used in India for thousands of years. The earliest mention of cannabis was found in sacred Hindu texts compiled as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C.; where it was named as one of five sacred plants.

Cannabis use is still widespread in India today, but its legal status is complex. Government-owned shops sell cannabis in the form of bhang in some cities and states. Bhang is comprised of cannabis leaves and flowers as part of the ingredients, and is most often consumed as a drink accompanying celebrations during religious festivals.

Some states also have their own laws regarding cannabis, which is known in India as ganja.

At a federal level, the Indian government passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985, which banned the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers, but permitted the use of the leaves and seeds.

There have been other calls for the ban to be lifted. In 2015, a group of oncologists suggested that cannabis could offer an effective treatment for cancer and lobbied the Government to remove bans on research.

According to an article on FirstPost published late last year, there were more than 30 proposals from various organisations at that point in time seeking permission from the nation’s Health Ministry to extract cannabis oil for cancer treatment.

Conventional medicines can be pricey in the West, but in nations such as India they can be totally out of reach of all but a privileged few. The therapeutic benefits of cannabis could provide many patients in India with affordable pain relief and treatments. While many already take this route, they do so with the potential for prosecution; which can result in large fines or jail time.