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Analysis Of National Policy For Prevention Of Narcotics And Psychotropic Substance Abuse

Current Scenario
Substance abuse has become an epidemic in India. A House Hold Survey was conducted by the Government in all 36 states and Union territories covering around 200,000 households, with the sample population of all between the ages of 10 -75.

According to the findings, about 14.6% of people (i.e. about 16 Crore people) are current users of alcohol. About 2.8% of Indians (3.1 Crore individuals) reported having used any cannabis product within past 12 months (Bhang � 2% or 2.2 crore people; Ganja/ Charas � 1.2% or 1.3 Crore people).[1]

Evolution And The Stakeholders Involved
The Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985, aimed to curtail the drug epidemic. It contained definitions of substances considered as Narcotics and Psychotropics and also defines an addict, namely means a person who has dependence on any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance;][2] It mentions all the authorities responsible for controlling the sale of drugs and gives Centre the power to add or omit any drug. It also mentions the penalties and punishments in case one in is caught with it.

Prior to 1985, India did not have any legislation to illegalize cannabis use. It succumbed to Western pressure, as United States was campaigning for a worldwide policy against drugs, which India tried to avoid for nearly two decades. The NDPS Act is in consonance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,1961. Since, 1985 the NDPS Act has been Amended three times � in 1988,2001,2014.

In the latest amendment, there has been a relaxation in terms of Essential Narcotics � namely (morphine, methadone, fentanyl) which are commonly used for pain relief. It increased the punishment for �small quantities� from 6 months to one year of imprisonment, but it removed the mandatory death sentence on repeat convicts trafficking large quantities of narcotics.

This policy aims to target the vulnerable people who are prone to addictions developing out of curiosity, mental health issues etc. Commonly the youth are found to be addicted to narcotics. It also aims to provide aid to those who are dependant on drugs by providing measures, rehabilitation and grants to NGOS working for the same. It targets illicit drug traffickers, that responsible for the epidemic and dependency in the first place with strict measures up to 30 years of imprisonment.

What Issues Does It Entail?
The most important issue is Public Health. The basic nature of drugs is addictive and is hard to control. With countries like America as precedent, we can see how Drug Epidemic can ruin the youth of an entire Nation.

The usage of illicit drugs alters one's constitution, behaviour and temperament. Many people use performance enhancing drugs which bring out the ethical issue. Study Drugs, Drugs to increase strength etc can have alarming side effects and give an undue advantage to the users which is unethical in each sense.

Drug usage is bad for any society as it leads to a deviation from the socially approved behaviours and norms, it may also influence non users.

Economically, this is a sin good which cannot be controlled by the regular market as it is illegal, hence they have a market of their own, whose practices are not regulated with unfair prices and quality of drugs unknown. The users are always at risk. In America deaths by usage of the drug ecstasy has been higher than ever, especially in females. It has been found that any deviation from a set composition of ecstasy can have dangerous effects.

Morally, the use of soft recreational drugs has not been frowned upon in India. It has been a custom of Hindus to consume Bhang during the Holi festival. Many sages smoke cannabis and chillums since as early as 2000 BC, as it has also been mentioned in the Atharva Veda. However, in recent times, the view has changed and even soft drugs are frowned upon.

  1. spell out the policy of India towards narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; and
  2. serve as a guide to various Ministries and organisations in the Government of India and to the State Governments as well as International Organisations, NGOs, etc.
  3. re-assert India's commitment to combat the drug menace in a holistic manner[3]

Substantive Provisions
  • It allows for authorized searches (S.41)
  • Right to be searched in front of a Gazetted Officer (S.52) The person who is arrested should be informed of the grounds of arrest, as soon as they are arrested. (S.52 (1))
  • It provides the Central Government to omit or add any substance in the list of psychotropic substances. (S.3)
  • Empowers Central Government to take all such measures necessary to prevent and combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking. (S.4)
  • The Central Government can delegate powers and create an Authority or a hierarchy of authorities for the purpose mentioned in S.4. (S. 4(3))
  • The Central Government has to appoint a Narcotics Commissioner and can appoint other such officers. (S.5). While S. 7(l) empowers the State Governments to appoint any such officers.
  • The Central Government may constitute a Committee for consultation. (S.6)
  • Empowers Central Government to constitute a National Drug Control Fund. (S.7)
  • Empowers Central Government to control, permit and regulate the cultivation and sale of certain drugs like opium, coca keeping in mind the provisions in S.8. (S 9). S.10 Provides the same to State Governments.

The Policy is very elaborative and contains many provisions. However, there hasn't been much demarcation in punishments with regards to soft drugs and hard drugs. Soft Drugs like cannabis have as severe punishments as hard drugs like cocaine. Which is unreasonable considering India's history with Cannabis Usage and there hasn't been any substantive proof of any harm or long-term effect associated with Cannabis users.

Tobacco is scientifically certified to be more harmful than certain soft drugs. Softer drugs are considered to be gateway drugs to hard drugs, whereas it could eb quite the opposite. The ban on soft drugs could be the reason why many are pushed into hard drugs. The punishments, though clearly defined do not follow a particular metric or are not proportionate in terms of the type of drug.

The policy gives a lot of power to the Centre which could be detrimental to the public at large as each State has a different issue with drugs, like Punjab being one where the drug abuse rates are high.

It has also been seen that at the time this policy was brought forth, there wasn't much drug abuse, addiction or any such issue. Over the time, with making certain drugs illegal, the drug epidemic has increased.

  1. Legal:
    This law serves as deterrent to drug traffickers. This may however lead to more illegal trade and black markets which cannot be regulated.
  2. Ethical:
    This policy demonizes may softer drugs that could be used for relaxation purposes and which do not have any noticeable harmful effects.
  3. Moral:
    This policy does have moral implications and changes the notion around many substances that have been considered historically acceptable.
  4. Social:
    This Policy aims to regulate society through punishing certain behaviour. This does affect the way society views addicts. It may victimize addicts to a degree that is unnecessary. Social regulation tends to face backlash.
  5. Economic:
    Many drugs that are required for patients in certain quantities are not legal. The ones that are made legal will be available only through legitimate, legal channels. This creates a controlled market for therapeutic drugs. However, with so much scrutiny there is always a chance of bad quality ones sold through illegitimate channels.
  6. Political:
    This policy is an aim to align India with the political ideology of the West mainly. It has signed three conventions and was bound to come up with some sort of regulation.

The policy is very elaborate but lacks refinement and more consideration. It gives a lot of power in the hands of the Centre, which may make it arbitrary. There should be a proper metric for the punishments relating to the offences. The fact that there is a similar punishment for soft drugs as well as hard drugs is problematic. Soft drugs cannot be demonized due to India's historic context and cultural context. The severity of addiction is also different for both.

This policy in turn draws out a �problem where there isn't� is one the early on criticisms. It is true, the drug epidemic did increase after this policy.
There should be inclusion of more drugs that can be used for therapeutic purposes in a controlled manner.

It is a recommendation that softer drugs should be legalized, as it may be an effective way to reduce addiction to hard drugs like heroin. Softer drugs should stop being regarded as Gateway drugs

Concluding, the policy needs to make some changes in its strict attitude towards all drugs. The regulations need to be made flexible, as such regulations tend to victimize people and force them to do indulge in illegal activities.

There has to be transparency in the procedure used to arrest people on suspicion.

  1. Annual report (2017-2018) by Ministry of Social Justice, Pg-133
  2. The Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, Section (2)(i)
  3. Annual Report (2017-2018) by Ministry of Social justice, Pg 134

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