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Cannabis and Himachal

 By Kanupriya Purohit

Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

CHOICES. POLICIES. IMPLEMENTATION. These are treacherous and demanding words. All three should be rationally, practically and economically thought upon while keeping national interests in mind. Policies should be made according to the choices made and implementation should be devoid of loopholes. The thought provoking and soul-stirring documentary- Goonj (an empty call) makes one reflect on all three.

The movie threw light on how Himachal Pradesh is suffering in the claws of cultivation of cannabis and how grave the situation has become. Also, the lack of proper policies and poor implementation of existing policies do absolutely no good.

Cannabis is a tall annual dioecious plant which grows naturally in high altitudes. Its seed is used to extract oil, its stem is used to make strong ropes and other useful things and its leaves are used to make marijuana or charas. Now the problem is whether or not cannabis’ cultivation should be banned. Given its medicinal and many other uses, should its use in making drugs banned? What about the people whose only source of livelihood comes from its cultivation and sale of marijuana?

If smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol (regarded as deterrents of health and on both taxes are levied, in fact smoking in public is an offence) is ‘legal’, why is consuming charas such a hullaballoo. If ‘youth’ is putting their and the nation’s future in danger by getting addictive to it, then the same logic applies to smoking and drinking. And if taxing and not banning these commodities increases government revenue, then so is the case if marijuana is heavily taxed.

The economy, various businesses, national interests and ‘welfare’ of the people should be taken into consideration while making the ‘choice’. Marijuana trading is gaining momentum in this beautiful state of India. The business is flourishing in crores. Students in the area have become addicted to it. But the villagers have no other way to make both ends meet. Police in the area tries to destroy the crops and keep villagers in check, but due to lack of funds and faulty plan of action they do not succeed.

As mentioned earlier, the debate is on whether to legalize its cultivation or not. If not, then what are the alternatives to help people who depend on it economically? India seconds not legalizing it. But what good is it doing? Let’s look at the social costs of legalizing it. It increases dependence, country flourishes with more dealers of drugs, and the taxes cannot cover the costs of destroyed families, ruined lives and declined productivity.

So what should be done? There are two ways that can be opted for –

  1. Legalize cannabis, but use it only for its medicinal purposes, uncompromising regulations for the production of marijuana
  2. Criminalize it and make sure that it grows nowhere and simultaneously employ people dependent on its cultivation.

The situation is grave and choices have to be made promptly. The chain of making policies and implementing them should begin. Otherwise, due to the delay people will suffer.

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