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‘UN commission reclassifies cannabis, no longer considered risky narcotic’

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    14th Dec, 2020

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took several decisions, leading to changes in the way cannabis is internationally regulated, including its reclassification out of the most dangerous category of drugs. Even India voted for its re-classification. 

 It is now being presumed now that this will lead to changes in the way cannabis is regulated internationally, and in India.

Context

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took several decisions, leading to changes in the way cannabis is internationally regulated, including its reclassification out of the most dangerous category of drugs. Even India voted for its re-classification. 

 It is now being presumed now that this will lead to changes in the way cannabis is regulated internationally, and in India.

About

What is Cannabis?

  • Cannabis (often called marijuana) refers to a group of three plants with psychoactive properties, known as Cannabis sativa,Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
  • Cannabis comes from the cannabis plant.
  • It contains the active ingredient delta-9 TetraHydroCannabinol (THC), which affects brain function.
  • The flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant are dried, then smoked or eaten for the psychoactive effects of THC, which can alter perception and mood. The dried flowers (heads) of the cannabis plant have a high THC concentration.
  • Cannabis is a depressant drug that reduces brain activity.

What are the effects?

Effects During use

  • The effects felt during use can be both desired and undesired.
  • For most people who use cannabis, the desired effect is a feeling of well-being.
  • People who use cannabis often talk and laugh a lot and experience an altered perception of time.
  • Increased appetite, dry mouth and bloodshot eyes are a few of the common and recognisable effects of using cannabis.
  • Harmful effects, even a small amount of THC can cause:
    • poor concentration and problem-solving
    • short-term memory loss
    • slower reaction times
    • increases in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure
    • anxiety and paranoia

The UN convention

  • India is one of 53 members of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs.
  • Twenty-seven of these countries, including the US and many European nations, voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it is listed alongside opioids like heroin, while 25 countries (including Pakistan and China) voted to retain it, and one member abstained.
  • Cannabis was a part of both Schedule I and IV of the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — and while drugs in Schedule I can be used for medicinal purposes with state consent, drugs in Schedule IV are strictly controlled and their usage is a criminal offence.

What does it mean for India?

  • According to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics, marijuana was controlled.
  • Interestingly, the signatory nations were supposed to criminalise “cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery on any terms whatsoever, brokerage, dispatch, dispatch in transit, transport, importation and exportation of drugs.”
  • The NDPS(Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, 1985, was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government with penal provisions in case cannabis was found in one’s possession, sold or if one grew the plant.
  • Purview: Under its purview, a wide range of drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis, ganja, heroin and opium, are considered illegal.
    • The law, however, does not apply to bhang, another form of cannabis that is consumed through eating or drinking.
  • There are thousands of cases registered under the NDPS Act in the country each year.

Will India require amendment?

  • Since international conventions do not automatically become part of municipal law in India, removing cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs will require an amendment in the Drug and Cosmetics Act.
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