In a meeting of a group of ministers (GOM) in India, the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, proposed legalising cannabis for medical use. She cited the US as an example where legislation of medical cannabis was an effective measure in harm reduction related to drug use.

Maneka Gandhi made this proposition while the GOM was reviewing the National Drug Demand Reduction Policy. This piece of legislation aims to help with the rehabilitation of people suffering from addiction to illicit drugs like cannabis, heroin and opium, and legal pharmaceutical drugs like tranquilisers and inhalants. Gandhi said:

In some of the developed countries, like the US, marijuana has been legalised, which ultimately results in less drug abuse {…} The possibility of the same may be explored in India {…} marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in cancer treatment”.

Social Justice and Empowerment Secretary Latha Krishna Lao opposed Maneka Gandhi’s proposition by stating that: “it may not be appropriate to legalise such drugs”. Although she also declared that the proposition would be relevant to explore in the future

Even though cannabis legalisation is not a very popular issue in India, Maneka Gandhi is not the first political leader to come out in favor of it. In November 2016, MP Dharamvir Gandhi presented a private member’s bill to legalise medical cannabis, which found support from the MP for Punjab and from the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vinod Khanna. Their argument was that it would help fight addiction to cocaine and alcohol, which are rising in the country.

As of now, some 20 countries have legalised medical cannabis in some form: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Macedonia, Netherlands, Romania, and Spain. However not all countries have the same regulations. Countries like France and Romania for example do not offer medical cannabis as a herb to smoke, but medications containing derivatives of cannabis are available to help relieve patient’s pain.

Words by Pierre-Yves Galléty. Tweets @PYGallety

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