What Does the Indian National Drugs and Psychotropics (NDPS) Act Say With Respect to Cannabis/Marijuana?

While we strongly encourage everyone to read the NDPS Act fully, we want to make it easier by specifying where to look for the clauses pertaining to cannabis/marijuana. We have interpreted their meaning and what it means for us, the general Indian public. Important words are highlighted in bold.

Deeper into the NDPS Act, India
Time to go deeper into the legal landmine
  • Chapter 1, Section 2, clause (iii)

(iii) “cannabis (hemp)” means

(a) charas, that is the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;

(b) ganja that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and

(c) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, or any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom;

What this means for us

What the central government means by cannabis is NOT the entire cannabis plant, but ONLY the flowers and resin of the cannabis plant and its derivatives and preparations. The leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant does not come under the definition of cannabis. (bhang is mainly made from the leaf). This is highly unusual. The definition is not correct. The cannabis plant means all the parts of the cannabis plant. The government could easily have mentioned all the parts of the cannabis plant and then made restrictions on the respective parts rather than create confusion at the beginning itself.

Confusion in the definition of cannabis by the Indian NDPS Act
Cannabis is the flower and the resin, but not the seeds and the leaves. Hence, seeds and the leaves of the cannabis plant are pretty much legal

Let’s look ahead and keep updating our interpretation.

  • Chapter 3, Section 8

8. Prohibition of certain operations – No person shall 

(b) cultivate the opium poppy or any cannabis plant or

(c) produce, manufacture, possess, sell, purchase, transport, warehouse, use, consume, import inter-state, export inter-state, import into India, export from India or tranship any narcotic drug or psychotropic substanceexcept for medical or scientific purposes and in the manner and to the extent provided by the provisions of this Act or the rules or orders made there under and in a case where any such provision imposes any requirement by way of licence, permit or authorization also in accordance with the terms and conditions of such licence, permit or authorization:

Provided that, and subject to the other provisions of this Act and the rules made there under, the prohibition against the cultivation of the cannabis plant for the production of ganja or the production, possession, use, consumption, purchase, sale, transport, warehousing import inter-state and export inter-state of ganja for any purpose other than – medical and scientific purpose shall take effect only from the date which the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.

What this means for us

The Central government is saying that you can’t cultivate cannabis (but what if it grows just like that, in the wild? Without any supervision by any Indian citizen. That’s not mentioned anywhere. Yet). BUT, YOU can grow the cannabis plant for medical and scientific purposes PROVIDED you manage to procure an official license or permit or any authorizationMedical cannabis is legal in India, provided entrepreneurs can convince the government that they have the credentials to do scientific research and develop medical formulations (cannabis is a part of Ayurveda, India’s ancient medical system).

Time to go even deeper. Clarity is near. Against the popular conception of cannabis being completely illegal, the Act does make some provisions. Let’s see what’s next.

Summary so far

Cannabis means the flower and the resin (you usually smoke this), but not the seeds and leaves (bhang is made from leaves). Technically, the seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant do not come under the NDPS Act (readers can judge how unusual this is). You cannot grow or source cannabis unless you have a license and have convinced the government that you’re making medicines and research.

Let’s move ahead.

In our opinion the below section is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the NDPS Act with respect to cannabis/marijuana.

  • Chapter 3, Section 10 and Section 14

10. Power of State Government to permit, control and regulate – (1) Subject to the provisions of section 8, the State Government may, by rules-

(a) permit and regulate-

(iii) the cultivation of any cannabis plant, production manufacture, possession, transport, import inter-State, export inter-State, sale, purchase consumption or use of cannabis (excluding charas);

(b) provide that the limits within which, licences.may be given for the cultivation of any cannabis plant shall be fixed from time to time by or under the orders of the State Government;

(c) provide that only the cultivators licensed by the prescribed authority of the State Government shall be authorized to engage in cultivation of any cannabis plant;

(d) require that all-cannabis, the produce of land cultivated with cannabis plant, shall be delivered by the cultivators to the officers of the State Government authorized in this behalf;

(e) empower the State Government to fix from time to time, the price to be paid to the cultivators for the cannabis delivered;

(f) prescribe the forms and conditions of licences or permits for the purposes specified in sub-clauses (i) to (vi) of clause (a) of subsection (1) ind the authorities by which such licences- or permits may be granted and the fees that may be charged therefor.

14. Special provision relating to cannabis -Not withstanding anything contained in section 8, Government may, by general or special order and subject to such conditions as be specified in such order, allow cultivation of any cannabis plant for industrial purposes only of obtaining fibre or seed or for horticultural purposes.

That’s it! From the ancients to the present day, we have come quite far

What this means for us

The Central Government has put the onus of implementing all the guidelines to each state. The state has the power to issue licenses or permits to select entities to grow cannabis only for medical, scientific and industrial purposes. All cultivation will be monitored by the state government.

Overall Summary

Cannabis has been defined as the flowers and resin of the cannabis plant but not the seeds and the leaves of the plant. Hence, technically, an entity can manufacture a product using the seeds and the leaves of the cannabis plant legally without any permission from the state government. 

But then, now here comes the kicker. We need read each and every state’s legislation for cannabis’ cultivation or possession to confirm every fact before coming to conclusions. In the meanwhile, due to poor legislation India risks being left quite behind in the business of medical cannabis and industrial hemp seeing as multiple countries all over the globe have begun to realize the practical benefits of the plant while earning revenues from legalizing the recreational aspect as well just like alcohol or tobacco. 

Read to find out what could happen in 2020.

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