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Grass is greener in Britain

The Hindustan Times, Editorial, 4th December 2005

Anyone for restoring some cultural pride and independence? If you thought it’s silly for Indians to blindly pick up the term ‘Middle East’ and use it to describe a region that clearly lies to our West, listen to this. Britain has just rejigged its drug laws and now people in the country can possess cannabis without being picked up by the police. The new law simply maintains that selling the cannabis sativa plant in its various forms is still a crime.

If one disregards the slightly Kafkaesque situation posed there for marijuana-users who don’t grow their own herb — “Where do you get the cannabis from to possess it? — it clearly signals that the West is getting less phobic about the ‘recreational substance’. Add to this British turn of events, the US has also been slowly but surely making cannabis more kosher in certain states — although under the garb of it being a therapeutic substance.

In India, cannabis has been consumed for centuries — either as ganja, bhang, or charas. And while there is good cause to cheer that alcoholic beverages — imported Scotch included — have been gratifyingly consumed by many of us, cannabis has stuck with the tag of ‘bad substance’ that was slapped on it by Western perceptions down the decades. It would be wise to note that India prohibited the possession of cannabis under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985, only after international pressure to crack down on a recreational substance that traditionally terrified Western societies (‘refer madness’wink. The India Hemp Commission set up by the British reported in 1894 the ‘evils’ of marijuana. And we all fell for it. Now that the Brits are waking up and smelling the pot, time to export some fine Manali to the sahebs to balance the trade with Scotch?

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