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  • Drug policy in India: Key developments since the UNGASS 2016

    This paper outlines the key drug policy developments in India since the UNGASS Outcome Document was adopted in 2016, which highlights health and human rights concerns in relation to both drugs and drug policies. In March 2019, member states are expected to take stock of commitments made in the 2009 United Nations Political Declaration and Plan of Action on ‘International cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem’ at the ministerial segment of the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). It represents an important opportunity to review progress to date and to set meaningful goals for future drug policy.

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  • India


    Drug users in India have long been the target of systematic profiling, leading in turn to unwarranted detention and arrests. However, some positive changes in law enforcement practices have been highlighted over the years. In some cities NGOs have started working with law enforcement to support harm reduction programs for people who use drugs and sex workers and this has led to a decrease in police harassment. However, it is reported that although top officials are sympathetic to such programs, lower cadre law enforcement require more sensitization to build an enabling environment. The formulation of legislation and policy that increases access to harm reduction interventions is highly necessary. Coverage of services is low, especially concerning OST.

    Punishments for drug-related offences depend not only the quantity of the drug but also on the type of substance involved. Offences involving small quantities are punishable with incarceration for up to six months or a fine up to 10,000 Rs (220USD). Penalties for offences involving greater quantities result in imprisonment ranging from 2 to 10 years and fines of up to 100,000 Rs while drugs found in commercial quantities attract punishments ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine between 100,000 and 200,000 Rs. Recidivists convicted of repeating the same crime can be sentenced to prison terms and fines 50 percent above the maximums stipulated earlier. In June 2011 the High Court of Bombay has struck down the mandatory capital punishment for drug offences, instead death penalty will remain an option for recidivist drug traffickers.

    Indian legislation accords preference to the diversion of users from penal institutions towards treatment. Courts can thus direct drug users convicted of illicit consumption to medical treatment facilities maintained or recognized by the government or a local authority for de-addiction. Voluntary admission into treatment for drug dependence also provides immunity from prosecution in such cases.

    Reports of abuse, physical and otherwise, are common inside prisons and drug treatment centres. Harm reduction services are unavailable in correctional settings as are antiretrovirals and referrals to other health services.


    The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS - amended in 1989, 2001 and a new amendment bill is under discussion in November 2011) is a comprehensive legislation that prohibits cultivation, production and manufacture, possession and consumption, sale and purchase as well as transport and warehousing of illicit drugs. The government of India is currently reviewing the draft National Policy On Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation of its Victims, which has a focus on treatment and rehabilitation as well as capacity building and training.

  • Drug policy in India

    India’s response to drugs flows along an extraordinary spectrum – of tradition and modernity; of widespread availability and stringent enforcement; of tolerance and prohibition; of production for medical use to lack of medical access to opiates. India’s long history of cannabis and opium use is referenced extensively in policy analysis. Being a country with significant volumes of licit and illicit drug cultivation, a transit route as well as a consumer market, India’s drug policy dilemmas span ‘demand’ and ‘supply’ control.

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  • Dr Gandhi to move Bill to legalise recreational drugs

    "To treat drug addicts as a patients and not criminals," is hall mark of the NDPS amendment bill

    dharamvira-ghandiPatiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi said that he was working on an amendment to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act 1985 of India to legalize common recreational drugs. The draft of the bill has been prepared by a group of Delhi based lawyers and professionals and discussions will be held among various politicians, lawyers, psychiatrists, academicians, social activists, drug users, religious leaders and media personalities this weekend to elicit their opinions and give it a final shape. (See also: Gandhi blames NDPS Act for state’s drug menace)

  • Punjab’s war on drugs is more a war on drug addicts

    Those who have been arrested were merely small-time peddlers. No drug lord worth his name has been put behind bars

    india-punjab-24deathsIn May 2014, stung by allegations of inaction over the rampant abuse and trafficking of drugs, the Punjab government launched an aggressive crackdown with Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal declaring: “We will spare no one.” These words resonated in police stations across the state with 17,068 arrests in 2014 and 11,593 more until December 2015. But that’s just on the surface, according to an Express investigative series on drug problem in Punjab. (See also: Punjab drugs: At Ground Zero, behind each door, a broken home | Cut and paste, cut and paste and you have a drugs FIR in Punjab)

  • Scholars, politicians kick off debate on legalising drug sale

    Opine that controlled sale of traditional drugs should be allowed

    opium-cultivation-bhopalWith less than a year before the Assembly elections, several civil society activists, scholars and politicians — for the first time — have joined hands and launched a campaign demanding that controlled sale of traditional drugs — opium, poppy husk and cannabis — should be legalised in the state. The move has come at a juncture when the Punjab Government is busy in showcasing seizures and arrests made by Punjab Police under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

  • Is it legal to get high on bhang in India?

    Growing marijuana is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but harvesting the leaves that grow by themselves in the wild is allowed

    For centuries bhang – which is a paste created by grinding cannabis leaves – has been mixed in milk, laddoos or pakoras as a special treat with a kick for Holi, the Hindu festival of color and spring. Technically, the cultivation, sale, purchase, transportation and importation of cannabis is usually prohibited in India. Does that mean everyone participating in the bhang revelry on Holi is breaking the law? A close look at India’s federal drug law reveals the huge loopholes that will allow millions to get high on bhang.

  • Cannabis ban is elitist. It should go: Tathagata Satpathy

    Since 1985, when the NDPS Act was enacted, this is the first time an Indian lawmaker has shown the courage to speak out against the law

    Tathagata-SatpathyBJD chief whip in Lok Sabha (India's lower house in parliament) Tathagata Satpathy recently admitted on social media that he smoked cannabis in his younger days. The four-time MP from Dhenkanal in Odisha even showed the way to legally score the stuff in his own state. The comments have since gone viral, earning Satpathy many fans for his candid admission and frank opinion on what he says is an unfairly stigmatized subject. He explains his opposition to the "elitist" ban on cannabis consumption in India and how given an opportunity he would stand up for its repeal in Parliament.

  • Too harsh to work

    The call to ‘shun drugs, not addicts’ makes little sense as the narcotics law criminalises drug use

    india-bhang-shopThere is no appetite in India for a serious conversation on drugs. The prime minister’s recent radio talk on the subject confirms that. Yet, drugs and laws to deal with them engage civil liberties, health and justice in a fundamental way that cannot be ignored. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) is one of the harshest laws in the country. No country can "arrest" its way out of the drug problem. Many countries, particularly in Europe and Latin America, have decriminalised personal use and possession of drugs in varying degrees and seen no adverse consequences. (See also: Drug policy in India)

  • A more enlightened approach to intoxicants should legalise marijuana

    With two US states - Washington and Colorado - voting to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, a similar liberal approach towards mild intoxicants in India is up for debate. Consumption of marijuana and other cannabis derivatives such as bhang dates back hundreds of years with strong roots in Indian culture. Untill 1985, marijuana and other cannabis derivatives were legally sold in the country through authorised retail shops. The enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in that year - carried out under pressure from the US - pushed the marijuana trade underground.