On the eve of November 10, after trying to score weed through all the peddlers they knew in Delhi, Anshuman Deb* and his friend Nasir Zaidi* decided to source it from the cycle rickshaw and auto rickshaw drivers at the Nizamuddin Railway Station. After wandering unsuccessfully at the station parking lot for 10 minutes, they found a patrolling cop staring at them. “While I always try to look as inconspicuous as possible, Nasir, being the idiot he is, came to this shady place wearing a bright silver Ed Hardy wind cheater. Even a blind person wouldn’t miss him,” Deb tells me as he rolls a cannabis joint, Deep Purple’s 'Mistreated' playing on his music system.
As the cop gestured to them to come to him, a sense of dread settled in the pits of their stomach. Deb, a regular, had come prepared with an excuse. “We are devotees of Hazrat Nizamuddin and had come to the nearby dargah,” he said, with the belief that 'police don't fuck around with religious emotions'. It had worked on earlier occasions, but this time they were in for a surprise. The visibly furious cop shouted at them, ordered them to raise their hands, and went on to search them. Fortunately, he failed to find any weed. “Aaj ke baad tum charsion ko yahan dekha, to sahi se bataunga (If I see you stoners here after today, I will teach you a lesson),” he told them. The duo decided to walk away without giving any further explanations. This was the first time Deb had seen such active police patrolling at ‘ganja hubs’ in their last eight years of smoking pot in Delhi.
Amid mounting crackdown in India, cannabis users like Deb are currently reeling from a severe weed drought in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata and Goa (ya, we know it’s not a city but you get the point), and even smaller towns like Kolhapur and Jhansi. Raids against cannabis farmers and peddlers have been taking place in hubs like Tripura and Odisha. While around 30,000 kg weed was confiscated in just one district in Tripura recently (leading to unemployment and a crippled economy), up to 4,362 acres of cannabis cultivation has been destroyed in Odisha in 2016-17, causing a steep fall in supply from districts like Angul, Sambalpur and Deogarh. On November 18, around 700 kilograms of weed was confiscated from Alipurduar in Assam.
Azim*, a drug peddler in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, says that he isn’t getting the merchandise from his regular suppliers from Himachal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, even at a premium price. “The word on the street is that the Modi government doesn’t like the ease of availability of weed in India. Zyada hi sakhti hai is baar. (It's too strict this time).” According to him, the acute shortage in Delhi is because “most of the good stuff comes from Odisha, which is currently sookha (dry)”. In such a scenario, he, and most of the peddlers he knows, are resorting to selling Bangladeshi weed.
But Mohit*, a regular buyer from South Delhi’s Sarita Vihar, says that this “Bangladeshi stuff”—sold at double its regular price—doesn’t help at all. “I have had two fucking joints. Nothing happens,” he insists. “I have a full packet of this stuff at my apartment—all useless.” Most of his friends are buying hashish (also sold at a much higher price than usual) or asking friends and acquaintances from neighbouring states to send it to them.
Roy* from Delhi says that, “the price is jacked up to an unbelievable level”, and expressed his anger about the “best of the best stash for the elitists running via the same networks as before”. Sandeep*, on the other hand, chose to compromise on quality. According to him, some dealers are now reportedly selling heroin to those desperately chasing a high. “It’s right now easier to get heroin in Subhash Nagar and Tilak Nagar than weed,” he says.
The situation is similar in Kolkata, the entry point of large quantities of weed from Bangladesh and north-eastern states that then move to other parts of the country. Sushovan*, a weed lover from Kolkata, says he thinks that the problem is on a ‘national level’. “I have tried every hub in Kolkata like Sealdah, Ruby [Hospital], Sonagachi and Ahiritola, but failed to get it anywhere. I haven’t been able to go to places like Kalindi and Gariahat yet. Hope to get it there.”
Conflicting opinions arise in the case of both Mumbai and Pune, but they all point to a situation that has made an otherwise simple process very cumbersome, despite the supply being fairly stabilised since crackdowns in the beginning of November. In Mumbai, Faizal* says, “While the local Bombay black (a dubious local strain of the lower leaves of the marijuana plant usually mixed with henna, opium and shoe polish) is still available, getting good quality shit is much harder. People who can afford it have even shifted to scoring on the dark web for strains from Amsterdam and other places abroad, but those who can’t, have no option.” Attributing this added strictness to the increase in the number of marijuana smokers in the city, the bribes that dealers usually pay to local cops to get them to look the other way have considerably gone up. Meanwhile supply falls short of demand. What makes the situation even more mind-boggling is the recent announcement that the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) in Mumbai will be leading research on the medical uses of marijuana grown with legal permission in Jammu, while regular smokers—especially those from lower income groups—only have access to its potentially poisonous version.
Meanwhile in Pune, where the supply is said to be driven by student-centric consumption, a weed dealer said that “the situation in student spots has been bad since August because of the change in the police commissioner”, while a user claimed that “there are certain peddlers who will come and give it to you in student-free parts, but most of the popular spots like Mundhwa and Shivajinagar have been under scrutiny for months.”
In Goa, where police authorities declared a “crackdown on cannabis”, the tide appears to be turning in terms of quantity, but not quality. A source told us, “The weed supply is in flow in areas like Vasco, Baga, Candolim and Anjuna, but not as regular as it used to be, so you have to wait a few days to make a score.” They shared that the supply had been greatly affected in April and May due to the Karnataka elections since a large amount of weed comes in from that border, and checking had become more stringent. Another said that things were getting better, but claims “the bribe has gone up from the regular Rs. 1,000 to at least Rs. 10,000 if you get caught by the cops with a joint.”
But in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, Nishant Sharma* couldn’t find any stuff at all. “Dealers are resorting to selling hash instead,” he said. According to some of his friends in Ahmedabad, there is no weed available in Sanand, a major hub in the city.
It’s the same story in Bengaluru. ”It’s not available anywhere for the last 15-20 days,” says resident Sourav Dhavale*. “I generally score from Indira Nagar, Koramangala or through autowallahs. But now my auto guy has stopped responding to my calls and another guy I score from has completely disappeared. Moreover, the stuff that was Rs. 500 a month back now costs Rs. 3,000.” Dhavale finally managed to find some stuff from a friend who grows marijuana in his home.
Mohinder Jit Singh, Assistant Director of Narcotics Control Bureau in Chandigarh verified the availability of cannabis getting considerably tougher. “Compared to the general availability during this season, it’s less this time. So, we think we have been somewhat successful in our efforts in scaring the peddlers.”
*Names have been changed on request