Legal Status of Medical Cannabis in India

Medical marijuana buds in large prescription bottle with branded cap on black background

Over the years, medical marijuana (cannabis), derived from the leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant, has been subjected to various controversies in terms of both the medical use as prescribed medicine and its place in public health policy. Today, the medical use of this illicit recreational drug has re-emerged as a timely, albeit polarizing, issue for clinical practitioners and P&T committee members and the public.

While medical marijuana can be purchased using a prescription worldwide, India still lacks the proper legal backing for the use of medical cannabis for medicinal purposes. 

Cannabis use is not entirely banned in India as it has medical and scientific use, which is allowed under the law; however, all the legal aspects regarding the use of medical cannabis still remains to be legalized.

Various medical companies have approached the central government of India to frame laws and rules permitting and regulating the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The government of India has assured that they would adopt a balanced approach on cannabis by empowering the State governments to control, permit, and regulate the cultivation of any cannabis plant, possession, transport, production, import inter-state, export inter-state, manufacture, sale, purchase, and consumption of cannabis for medical, scientific and industrial purposes.

As of now, the NDPS (National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act bans the use of resin ad flowers of the cannabis plant, which is crushed and put into pipes for addiction, whereas hemp plants or seeds of the cannabis plant or the leaves are exempted from the ban. Since these plant parts contain cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, the main psychoactive substance, they lay the grounds for legal loopholes.

Studies have reported the various medical benefits of cannabis. It helps treat cancer, prevent cancer, spread cancer, reduce depression and anxiety, improve sleep, and manage cancer-related pains.

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