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Bhang, Ganja, and criminality in the NDPS Act


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDPS Act

Mains level : Issues with NDPS Act

While granting bail to a man arrested on June 1 for possessing 29 kg of bhang and 400 g of ganja, Karnataka High Court recently observed that nowhere in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act is bhang referred to as a prohibited drink or prohibited drug.

What is Bhang?

  • Bhang is the edible preparation made from the leaves of the cannabis plant, often incorporated into drinks such as thandai and lassi, along with various foods.
  • Bhang has been consumed in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, and is frequently consumed during the festivals of Holi and Mahashivratri.
  • Its widespread use caught the attention of Europeans, with Garcia da Orta, a Portuguese physician who arrived in Goa in the 16th century, noting that, “Bhang is so generally used and by such a number of people that there is no mystery about it”.

Bhang and the law

  • Enacted in 1985, the NDPS Act is the main legislation that deals with drugs and their trafficking.
  • Various provisions of the Act punish production, manufacture, sale, possession, consumption, purchase, transport, and use of banned drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes.
  • The NDPS Act defines cannabis (hemp) as a narcotic drug based on the parts of the plant that come under its purview. The Act lists these parts as:
  1. Charas: “The separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish.”
  2. 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 be known or designated.”
  3. “Any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom.”
  • The Act, in its definition, excludes seeds and leaves “when not accompanied by the tops”.
  • Bhang, which is made with the leaves of the plant, is not mentioned in the NDPS Act.

Cannabis and criminal liability

  • Section 20 of the NDPS Act lays out the punishment for the production, manufacture, sale, purchase, import and inter-state export of cannabis, as defined in the Act.
  • The prescribed punishment is based on the amount of drugs seized.
  • Contravention that involves a small quantity (100 g of charas/hashish or 1 kg of ganja), will result in rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year and/or a fine which may extend to Rs 10,000.
  • For a commercial quantity (1 kg charas/ hashish or 20 kg ganja), rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years, which may extend to 20 years, including a fine that is not less than Rs 1,00,000 but may extend to Rs 2,00,000.
  • Where the contravention involves quantity less than commercial, but greater than small quantity, rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years is prescribed, along with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,00,000.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] Substance Abuse in India



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