The main legislation to stop drug trafficking in India is the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (hence referred to as the “NDPS Act”). A system of “prohibition, control, and deterrent” was established by the NDPS Act. The Act was passed to fulfil India’s pledges and obligations under several international conventions to end the nation’s drug misuse problem [1].

NDPS Act prohibits the production, manufacture, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, consumption, and use of certain narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The Act includes a list of prohibited drugs and substances, which includes cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and MDMA, among others. Violation of the Act can result in significant penalties, including imprisonment and fines.

“Cannabis and its various forms, including hashish, ganja, and charas, are prohibited in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and their possession is regarded as illicit.”

Cannabis is defined in Section 2 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985;

Section 2 (iii) of the Act – According to this section cannabis (hemp) is defined as (a) Charas – a separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified; obtained from the cannabis plant, which also includes the concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish; (b) ganja – 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 natural material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom [2].

There are many controversies about bhang because it doesn’t come in the definition given under Section 2 of NDPS, 1985 even though it is a form of cannabis. Many states have permitted bhang as technically and legally, bhang should not include any other part of the plant except the leaves. Adding flowering tops or resin from the cannabis plants is not permitted to bhang as per the National Policy on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances [3].

Effect of drug addiction on humans

Addicts are unable to regulate their behaviour. They will do anything to obtain drugs, alcohol, or other substances, including jeopardizing their friendships, families, or careers. Why does addiction cause people to act in such a harmful manner? And why is it so difficult to stop? [4]

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, notes that “brain imaging studies of patients addicted to drugs or alcohol indicate diminished activity in this frontal cortex.” “When the frontal cortex isn’t functioning properly, people are unable to decide to quit using the drug, even though they are aware that doing so could have very negative consequences, such as losing custody of their children or landing in jail. They accept it, nonetheless [5].

Psychoactive drugs affect the central nervous system and alter a person’s mood, thinking, and behaviour. Drug addiction usually leads to distress, discomfort, daily functioning, and symptoms occurring within 12 months — Loss of control Impairment, Risky/Dangerous Use, Physiologic, etc.

Effect of drug use by youth on the Nation

The damage caused by drug abuse and addiction is reflected in an overburdened justice system, a strained healthcare system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction.The economic impact of drug abuse on businesses with drug-addicted employees can be significant. While many drug addicts are unable to obtain or maintain full-time employment, those who do work endanger others, especially when employed in positions where even a minor degree of impairment could be fatal; airline pilots, air traffic controllers, train operators, and bus drivers are just a few examples.

According to Quest Diagnostics, a nationwide company that performs employee drug tests for employers, 5.7 per cent of the drug tests performed on individuals involved in an employment-related accident in 2004 were positive. Employees who abuse drugs sometimes steal cash or supplies, equipment, and products that can be sold to get money to buy drugs, which has a negative economic impact on businesses [6].

India is also caught in this vicious circle of drug abuse, and the number of drug addicts is increasing daily. The epidemic of substance abuse in the young generation has assumed alarming dimensions in India. Changing cultural values, increasing economic stress, and dwindling supportive bonds are leading to initiation into substance use. According to a UN report, 1 million heroin addicts are registered in India, and unofficially, there are as many as 5 million.

After alcohol and tobacco, the most commonly used drugs in India are cannabis, heroin, opium, and hashish. However, some evidence suggests that the prevalence of methamphetamine is also increasing.

The majority of drug users are young males. According to a National Survey (2004) on the extent, pattern, and trends of drug abuse in India, opiates are the most commonly abused drugs, and 49% of respondents’ families have a history of drug abuse.

The scourge of drug abuse in Punjab has reached epidemic proportions, shaking the state’s entire society. It has been observed that “drug abuse” is a raging epidemic in Punjab, particularly among the young. According to a survey, 66% of the state’s school-age students consume “gutka,” or tobacco; every third male and every tenth female student has experimented with drugs for one reason or another, and seven out of ten college-age students are drug users [7].

Is there a need to amend the law regarding drugs?

Yes, I strongly feel that there is a need to change or amend the law regarding drugs because it is destroying the youth by having various bad effects as mentioned above. On 6 December 2021, a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha aimed to correct the error and ordinance in the previous act—Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Punishment for financing illegal activities or harbouring individuals involved in them: Financing certain illegal activities (such as cannabis cultivation or drug manufacturing) or harbouring people involved in them is a violation of the Act. Persons found guilty of this offence will face at least ten years in prison (extendable up to twenty years) and a fine of at least one lakh rupees.

By Deep Joshi, 3rd Year B.A. LL.B (Hons.), Faculty of Law, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara