The cannabis plant is stashed deep inside Indian history—whether it’s the Vedas mentioning it as an ingredient in the intoxicant Soma or as a pain-relieving ingredient in Ayurveda texts. While smoking the substance has been banned since the 1980s, there’s been a joint effort by many to spark a change in its perception in recent times, with weed activist groups like the Great Legalisation Movement fighting to legalise it for medicinal purposes and regularise its recreational use.
Not only does Baba Ramdev want to co-opt the plant with Patanjali to make it the ‘Babaji ki jadibooti’, but even the government has now authorised the Central Council For Research in Ayurvedic Sciences to test out its potential in relieving pain for cancer patients and chronic diseases. Even so, many critics are crushing such sentiments by saying it should stay banned because of its “addictive effects”.
Are we as a country truly ready to roll out a model for its regularisation and legalisation? If so, whose responsibility is it to ensure that this happens? We thought it was high time we asked young people what they consider to be the way forward for marijuana legalisation in India, and which political party they feel is most likely to say: Yes, we can-nabis.
Fawaz, 27, graphic designer
VICE: How’s it going, Fawaz? Which political party contesting in the current elections do you think is more likely to legalise marijuana?
Fawaz: I think it would be Congress because party members like Shashi Tharoor are already pushing for it. But even if it does happen, it will probably only be legalised in certain states like Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand—the way Rajasthan has legal opium—and will mainly be for tourism purposes. Even in Amsterdam, someone tried to sell me the Malana cream strain, which is typically cultivated in Himachal, saying it was “the best in the world”. And everyone knows that people visit the mountains of India since they’re known for having killer stash and “enlightenment” so it would make sense to legalise it and make a profit out of it in these places.
So you think it will primarily be driven by tourism?
Nah, that’s just if Congress does it. It could also be a bigger chip for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to make their seat more concrete to appeal to young voters because the old ways aren’t working. Even Section 377 was repealed under their rule—something which no one probably expected them to do—because they thought they were losing their power in the area. They want to appeal to millennial voters so they will play into the narratives in Hindu history like Lord Shiva being known to smoke, and legalise it for religious reasons in places where it’s not a taboo like in Himachal or Varanasi. There, even if a city kid goes and tries to smoke they’ll probably refuse, because for them, it’s a sacred way to get closer to god so they would try to bridge the gap between the recreational and the spiritual.
Parth, 25, artist manager
VICE: So Parth, which party according to you will support marijuana legalisation?
Parth: My friend recently showed me a pamphlet that the BJP apparently released which said that Modi supports marijuana legalisation. It may have just been a fake WhatsApp forward, but I think if it was real, it’s probably to capture the attention of the youth and I think it’ll work. But I personally feel like the Congress is more tolerant and they match the youth ideology, and their entire brand identity is created in a way that says: We understand youngsters and we don’t care about the older people.
Do you think old people don’t smoke up?
Not as much as the current generation would. I think alcohol is just more rampant from their era.
Do you think the legalisation is set to happen soon?
It’ll probably happen sometime within the next five years because globally, there’s been a commercialisation of weed, and because India is historically very open to cannabis, hash and hemp. I also think it’s more likely to happen faster if Congress comes to power.
Johanna, 22, breakdancer
VICE: What’s up, Johanna? Do you think any party standing in these elections is going to legalise marijuana?
Johanna: Politics in India right now is too conservative to legalise. Hypothetically though, it could probably be Congress, because even though it is a part of the Indian culture in the Vedas and with Lord Shiva associated as smoking a lot of ganja, I think the BJP very selectively uses Hindu history, so they probably won’t be thinking about legalisation.
And do you feel it should be legalised?
It’s much less harmful than most other drugs in the market and it could probably do a lot of good to legalise it, so it can be regularised and won’t come out really spiked.
Shane, 27, dancer
VICE: Hey Shane! Who do you think will make pot legal in India?
Shane: Congress is more likely to legalise. Modi is like hardcore and he’s banned so much already that I don't think he will legalise it. Even in terms of his whole Ayurveda thing, he’d rather push out Yoga, which is already taking over the world. But our country still has problems with people kissing on the streets and dressing up in a certain way so I don’t think it will be legalised anytime soon.
Do you personally support it being legalised?
No, I don’t. I live in Goa and that’s the place where it all started and I’ve heard of so many people who get into it and then can’t get out. I think it can be legalised for medical purposes, but in general, especially for the youth, it shouldn’t because it’s known to slow you down. It’s good if you know how to keep yourself engaged with life, but if you’re a person who cannot balance your life out and who isn't disciplined then it’s very difficult.
Christina, 21, student
VICE: Christina, do you think Indians will be smoking weed openly and legally any time soon?
Christina: We live in India, bro. It’s not going to happen, especially not with the parties and candidates we have right now. Maybe when members of the Gen Z generation come into power, we can think about legalisation but we’re still at least 10 years away from it.
Do you think legalisation is just an elephant in the parliament room—it should be discussed but noone’s bringing it up?
Living in a legal state just means that there’s more freedom because you’re not constantly worried about being caught by the cops, and as far as I’ve heard, pot is a lot less harmful than various other things are. It also helps out patients medically. It’s known to numb pain so can help people who deal with cramps, severe migraines or any other painful ailment. I wish it was a little more open, but there are laws and I think we need to maintain a balance within those lines.
Shezana, 20, student
VICE: Hey Shezana, think any of our future leaders are making pot legal?
Shezana: I don’t know too much about politics but I think Congress can because I feel like as a party, it’s more chill. Basically, when I hear about BJP, they’re all against religion and stuff, and I just feel like Congress is less hateful and more chilled out.
Would you like to see legalisation on political manifestos?
Yeah man, because unlike alcohol, weed is just less messy. It’s known to open your mind up. The reason we need to legalise it is because people are anyway smoking it so it’s better if they just make it legal so they can sell it properly, tax it, and just do it the good way instead of people having to get it the shady way.
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.