The government plans to introduce legislation to decriminalise the possession of a small amount of drugs in India

According to reports, the Centre is set to list a Bill to decriminalise possession of a limited number of drugs for personal use in the Parliament's winter session, which begins on Monday. Various departments, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and the NCB, presented a suggestion to the Prime Minister's office in November.


The Narendra Modi government intends to decriminalise personal consumption of small amounts of drugs such as cannabis, narcotics, and psychiatric substances in order to assist victims of drug usage in overcoming their addiction.

The proposals were made at a high-level meeting with top officials from the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Home Affairs, Narcotics Control Bureau, Social Justice Ministry, and Health Ministry on November 10 at the Prime Minister's Office.


What does the proposal say?

According to the proposals made by the Ministry of Social Justice, the Act should not only talk about replacing “consumption” with “other than personal consumption (in small quantity)” but also remove the word “addict” and replace it with “person with substance use disorder”. According to official sources, this will clearly distinguish between the individual in possession or using the drug, and whether it is for personal consumption (which will be a modest quantity) or commercial use.

“This will help decriminalise personal consumption and will help courts take a more lenient view on people caught with small quantities,” a source in the NCB said.

It was also suggested that the word "possess" be changed with "possesses more than tiny quantities," to make it clear that the offender has a commercial or medium quantity of narcotics. Also, "other uses beyond for personal consumption" can be substituted for "uses."

Decriminalization an Important Step?

In the case of poppy straw, opium, cannabis, psychotropic substances, and other drugs and narcotics, it is proposed that mandatory admission to a government-run or supported rehabilitation or de-addiction centre be encouraged where the contravention involves a small quantity and possession is solely for personal consumption. The UN has supported decriminalizing drug possession for personal consumption and in small quantities. 28 countries across the world have decriminalized possession with sanctions such as fines, redirection to educational and social centers. This has helped in reducing hindrances for people to access healthcare, harm reduction and legal services.

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Mandatory de-addiction treatment.

According to the proposal under consideration, anyone found to have consumed or be in possession of any narcotic or psychotropic drug must be transported to the nearest health facility for assessment and de-addiction for a period of 30 days. Medical treatment for de-addiction must be a mandatory practice for a person involved with a small quantity of substances. This will help in the rehabilitation process and redirect the person’s energies to more productive activities and is likely to wean them away from the habit of the substance. A minimum period of 21 days would be prescribed to the person for detoxification cycle.

It was also requested that Section 27 (b), which states that if a person refuses to volunteer for treatment, the punishment is a fine up to Rs 10,000 plus one year of forced social service in a government-supported or run centre, be repealed entirely. The justification for marijuana legalisation extends well beyond India's international duties. Marijuana has long been a part of India's religious and social fabric, having been used medicinally, in cuisines, at festivals, and, of course, recreationally. "Approximately 2.8 percent of the population (3.1 crore individuals) reports having used any cannabis product within the preceding year," according to the 'Magnitude of Substance Use in India' report from 2019. The fact that so many people readily admitted to using cannabis products in a government poll should indicate both the substance's prevalence and acceptability.

Cannabis use, like alcohol and tobacco products, must be controlled, taxed, and monitored. When addiction strikes, it must be treated as and for what it is: a mental health problem. The international accords that compelled the passage of the NDPS Act were, in many ways, an outgrowth of the United States' 1960s "war on drugs." After decades of incarceration, a majority of Americans recently decided to legalise marijuana. There is no need for the world's largest democracy to replicate the faults of the world's oldest democracy.