On Tuesday, The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) arrested actor Rhea Chakraborty Tuesday in a drugs case in connection with the death of her boyfriend and actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Also Read - Weed Falling From The Sky! Drone Drops Hundreds of Bags of Marijuana in Israel, People Rush to Collect | Watch

Rhea’s arrest nevertheless has sparked a heated debate regarding the legal history of cannabis and shed light on India’s widespread drug abuse issue. Though it is illegal, marijuana is one of the most popular recreational substances in the country and Indians have been smoking it up since times immemorial.

Weed was legal until 1984

Yes, up until 36 years ago, cannabis or its resin (hash) and flowers (weed) were not deemed illegal and was abundantly used both for recreational and Ayurvedic medicinal purposes. Its oldest known usage and mention goes as far back as 2000 BCE.

However, calls for its criminalisation slowly started gaining ground in India especially after the US policy on drugs linked them to ‘insanity, violence criminality and death’. Influenced by America, an international treaty ‘Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ was signed in 1961 which categorized weed along with other hard drugs.

Finally, after a few years of deliberation, India enacted the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985 and criminalised the use of the fruit and flower of cannabis.

Leaves of marijuana, which are used in making bhaang, was however excluded owing to its connections with the Hindu religion. Prominently consumed during festivals like Holi and Shivratri, the sale and consumption of bhang is still permitted under Indian law.

Despite being illegal, 3 crore Indians consume it

Over 3 crore Indians consume it, about 2.8% of its population, according to the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India by the Ministry of Social Justice, which was conducted in 2018 and released last year, as per The Print.

Another study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy found in 2018 that Delhi can raise Rs 725 crore and Mumbai Rs 641 crore if cannabis is taxed.