India’s Chief Whip Calls For An End To The Ban On Cannabis
To the pleasant surprise of much of India’s more liberal and forward thinking population, Tathagata Satpathy, the Chief Whip of India’s ruling BJD party, has admitted to using cannabis (in his younger days), and called for an end to its ban. He even explained to his social media followers how they can legally obtain a bit marijuana in his elected state. The transparency and candour displayed on the subject has caused his comments to go viral, and is now shedding light on an otherwise shunned and stigmatised subject within the country.
A CULTURAL HISTORY OF CANNABIS USE
India has a long historical relationship with marijuana, being used both recreationally and religiously. However, since the UN prohibition of cannabis, and the beginning of the US led War on Drugs, India’s relationship with this wonderful herb has undergone a drastic change. Although the use of marijuana remains persistent, it is now seen as the preserve of the lower castes, with alcohol now being the intoxicant of the society’s elite. It has led to what Satpathy calls and elitist bias against the herb, which makes changing the way the government views it a tough subject. In his own words “We are the US of the '50s and the '60s. We are wannabes. The thinking is that if you hold a wine glass people will consider you belong to the upper class. You roll a joint and people will call you `charsi'.”
IS THERE CHANGE ON THE HORIZON?
With such a high ranking member of the Indian Parliament coming out in favour of the legalisation of marijuana, it's probably reasonable to wonder whether the issue will be raised in parliament. According to Satpathy, it is unlikely to be legalised anytime soon, unless it is for medical reasons. However, as can be seen with the rest of the world, it is more a matter of ‘when’, than ‘if’. And when the matter is raised, Satpathy has said he will argue in favour, should the party president allow him to. And the fact that he is chief whip for the party means that if he wants it, he will likely be able to make the majority of the party fall in line with him.
Either way, it is not often that we hear news about potential cannabis reform coming out of Asia, so it good to see the issue beginning to be addressed out there as well.