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The US House of Representatives — America’s equivalent of India’s Lok Sabha — passed a historic bill on Friday to decriminalise marijuana use across the US.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act recognises, and sets out to correct, a cynical law borne out of President Richard Nixon’s digressionary ‘war on drugs’ when he signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970.
What the latest federal law proposes is to follow an increasing number of states —15 on last count, apart from the District of Columbia — that have already decriminalised recreational use of marijuana.
One reason cited for Friday’s move is the (ab)use of the law to target African Americans and Hispanics. A 2020 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study (bit.ly/2JTqJz2) found Blacks being 3.6 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana, despite similar usage rates. India’s Parliament can certainly consider removing its own anti-marijuana law.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 was foisted on India as part of Ronald Reagan’s continued ‘war on drugs’. Social acceptability of the use of cannabis — ganja, charas, bhang — makes selective punishment for possession up to 20 years imprisonment bizarre.
Imagine Scotland being pushed to outlaw whisky by another country that wants to fight a ‘war on alcohol’.
The global ‘legal’ marijuana market was valued at $17.7 billion in 2019, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.1% over 2021-27. For India to take a toke of this market, and bring it under commercial quality control, is an obvious opportunity. It must do the right thing by decriminalising a wrong law that the country that originally foisted it upon us is now dismantling.