Media-bashing of Deepika Padukone & Friends puts India’s Marijuana Hypocrisy under the microscope.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has spurred one of biggest drug scandals in Bollywood’s history, with big names breaking one after another over the span of a few months. News outlets and netizens have whipped up a storm after the release of private WhatsApp chats in which Deepika Padukone is allegedly discussing plans to consume marijuana.
Big names like Deepika Padukone, Dia Mirza, and Shraddha Kapoor are now part of a controversy that’s overshadowing the pandemic which has infected more than 5.6 million people in India. Let’s not pretend Indian society was oblivious to the presence of marijuana. Marijuana in India is a topic that constantly jostles between the religious heritage of the nation where Bhang (edible leaves of the cannabis plant) is not merely legal but also celebrated, while weed and hash of the same cannabis plant are a multi-million-dollar illegal industry.
Statistics related to marijuana consumption in India may empower you to make more informed decisions before you form any opinion; but first, here’s what exactly has been happening in the high-profile Bollywood drug probe, birthed by the ‘Justice for Sushant’ campaign with little (to almost no) justice and a lot of peripheral accusations.
A promising young SSR lost his life but Rhea Chakraborty and Deepika Padukone smoke up
Rhea Chakraborty and ten other accused have been booked under Section 8 of the NDPS Act of 1985. It is to be noted that the charges are against all the accused and not just Rhea Chakraborty.
Watch: Top stars summoned by Narcotics Control Bureau
The name of the bonafide golden girl of Bollywood, Deepika Padukone, popped up during the investigation into the accused’s WhatsApp chats relating to procurement of Marijuana for personal consumption. Since then, reactions from within the industry, and from observers have been pouring in relentlessly. Other names in the mix now are Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet, Namrata Shirodkar and Dia Mirza.
This may be the time to contemplate if we are really naive enough to not know the reality of the culture. Legal organizations and investigation agencies will do their job adhering to the laws and provisions. But as citizens, the ideal thing to do is to sit back and wait for the final verdict instead of defaming and carrying out a smear campaign, as every third person around you might be doing.
In the meantime, these statistics related to the marijuana market in India might be of some help in making a sound judgment in the matter (best case scenario, no judgement till officials do their job).
Indian Cannabis Consumption Trends
After alcohol, cannabis and opioids are the next commonly used substances in India. There are almost 31 million Cannabis users in India. Although recreational usage of cannabis remains illegal, Delhi and Mumbai are the third and sixth largest consumers cities in the world. Not only this, India is also the cheapest market for cannabis in the world. The youth of the National Capital present some ground-breaking numbers. Almost 4,60,000 children in Delhi are found addicted to inhalant drugs as well as contributing to the largest population of underage alcohol consumers in the country. In 2018, Delhi inhabitants alone consumed 32.38 metric tonnes of cannabis as per the study of an Israeli company producing equipment to grow cannabis at home.
Watch: Delhi and Mumbai among World’s Top 10 Consumers of Marijuana
According to the report of the Vidhi Legal Think Tank, Delhi and Mumbai are such huge consumers of Cannabis that if the consumption were to be decriminalized, the two cities could earn Rs 725 crore and Rs 641 crore of tax revenue respectively.
But if cannabis held such promise in India, what went wrong?
Up until 35 years ago, i.e. 1985, smoking cannabis was legal in India. It was with the introduction of the NDPS Act, 1985 (The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) that the consumption of the resins (hash) and the flowers (weed) of the plant were criminalized. The interesting distinction is that the leaves of the plant, called Bhang, are completely legal in the country and are considered as a sacred edible substance.
Criminalization of cannabis was the prohibitionist approach of the United States which was mobilized by the UN. This prohibitionist approach by the US reflected, in part, widespread racist sentiments against the country’s African-American and Hispanic populations. Since the criminalization of cannabis, there has been a disproportionate upsurge in the arrest of African Americans for possession.
Watch: The Racist Origins of Marijuana Prohibition
The US influenced the world to criminalize cannabis, but it didn’t imply to what extent. Maybe that’s the entire source contention. Because we may know how and when to adopt western instructions, but we don’t know how to interpret them for our own particular circumstances.
Making sense of the ongoing drama
The question is, with millions of people consuming cannabis in India, would the government put all these people behind bars for possession and consumption? Of course, if the authorities applied the law consistently, and with the same force throughout the country. Despite the prominent and loud upswell of reactionary Hindu sentiment throughout the country, why do Indians choose to ignore the fact that cannabis is listed as one of the five essential and sacred plants mentioned in Vedas?
Watch: Should Marijuana be legalized in India?
Criminalization of cannabis was always destined to be a debatable topic in a country that chooses to sink billions’ worth of economic productivity into hampering the legality of a plant that lives in the roots of its heritage. However, no one predicted it would become a scapegoat for the stakeholders who should be answerable for India’s terrible economic performance, unemployment, pandemic control and the contribution of citizens to funds for COVID relief.
And while the people of the nation should be asking the real questions, the country chooses to be fixated to TV screens as first Rhea Chakraborty and now Deepika Padukone become subjected to vicious defamation and trials by media for just being questioned about alleged WhatsApp chats about marijuana.