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Amid growing drug menace, Himachal CM looking at legalising cannabis cultivation

Despite growing problem of drug abuse, the Himachal P:radesh Government has decided to legalise cannabis cultivation (Pic. Courtesy ANI)

Shimla: Even as the state law and order enforcement machinery is fighting hard to tackle the drug menace, the Himachal Pradesh government has come out with a proposal to legalise cannabis cultivation.

The announcement made in the state assembly comes in the wake of demand raised by MLAs, cutting across party lines suggesting permitting cultivation of Cannabis for industrial and medical use. The proposal is based on the lines of other states such as Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

“Legalising cannabis, currently grown illegally in Kullu and some other districts, will play a significant role in generating revenue and jobs besides proving beneficial for the patients as it has many medicinal properties and can be used for industrial purpose also,” Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said.

He says that there are many medicinal properties in cannabis. Using its medicinal properties, patients suffering from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression etc. get a lot of relief. Cannabis cultivation can prove to be very beneficial for the state’s economy, but it is necessary to ensure that it is not used as an intoxicant.

Illegal cannabis cultivation currently has become a big challenge for the police and narcotics bureau and already Parvati Valley of Kullu has become the biggest hotspot of charas, popular in the name of Malana cream which fetches big money for drug smugglers and those engaged in its cultivation.

The Chief Minister admitted that he had to take a cautious view of the demand for legalising Cannabis (Bhang) because of its potential for drug abuse.

He announced the setting up of a five-member committee of MLAs to conduct a thorough study about each and every aspect related to cannabis cultivation in the state.

“The committee will visit areas where illegal cultivation of cannabis takes place and submit a report in a month and only on the basis of the report submitted by the committee will the Government take any decision” Chief Minister told India Narrative here.

Sukhu says “we will consider all aspects, including regulatory measures and will study other states that have legalized it before making a final decision”

Neighbouring Uttarakhand legalised cannabis cultivation in the year 2017, while controlled cultivation of cannabis is also being done in some districts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Similarly, controlled cultivation of cannabis has been permitted in several European Union countries including Uruguay, Canada, USA, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

In 1985, the Parliament of India defined cannabis in the NDPS Act and a complete ban was imposed on extracting the resin and flowers from the cannabis plant. But this law determines the method and extent of cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes.

“Section 10 (a) (iii) of the Act empowers the states to make rules regarding the cultivation of any cannabis plant, production, possession, transport, consumption, use and purchase and sale, consumption of cannabis (except charas), says Sunder Thakur, Kullu MLA ,who is also Chief Parliamentary Secretary in the government.

According to him, the states are empowered to permit, by general or special order, the cultivation of hemp only for obtaining fibre or seeds or for horticultural purposes.

The committee will be headed by Revenue Minister Jagat Singh Negi and will have members—Sunder Thakur (Cong) Janak Ram , Hans Raj and Puran Chand—all BJP.

Sunder Thakur recalls that four years back the High Court had also asked the state government to consider legalising cannabis cultivation but the BJP government could not move further on the proposal.

Himachal Pradesh hopes to generate revenue of Rs 10,000 crore annually by undertaking the controlled cultivation of cannabis since the Chief Minister.

Around 2,400 acres of land in Himachal Pradesh is under organised illicit cultivation of cannabis. Charas worth Rs 1000 crore is smuggled out of the state each year and finds its way to western European and Scandinavian countries, while in Israel there is demand for Malana cream.