No Growing Cannabis

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Allowing its cultivation would be detrimental to young Goans

The Goa government’s decision not to allow cannabis cultivation in the state has come as a matter of great relief to the concerned citizens. It would have opened a whole new area for illicit trade in drugs under the camouflage of legal drugs. The government decision came in the backdrop of widespread opposition to the proposal to bring up a bill in the Assembly allowing cultivation of cannabis. The proposal to allow cultivation of cannabis had been initially made by the Indian Institute of Integrated Medicine for “medicinal purposes.” The proposal was sent to the law department for vetting which approved it and forwarded it to the health department. The government was considering drafting a bill to be presented in the Assembly when the  opposition and the media, and even sections of the BJP leadership, started raising concerns, forcing Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to announce that the proposal was being dropped. The hint from the Chief Minister was that the government had decided not to go ahead with the bill for the time being. That leaves room for suspicion that the government might revive the proposal in the future. 

The concerned citizens feel cannabis cultivation would be detrimental to the younger generations of Goans, as it might lead to mass consumption if it is locally grown in vast quantities. They also feel that there cannot be controlled growth of cannabis and that Goa would end up becoming a drug supplier. Though cannabis is regarded as an innocuous drug and its use is allowed in most of the developed countries, studies have proved that a good number of its users have reported short-lived adverse effects. Besides, its persistent use leads to risks of dependence and several other side effects. The risk is higher particularly among people with pre-existing psychiatric disorders. According to researchers, there was good evidence that consuming cannabis leads to acute adverse mental effects in a high proportion of regular users. They say that many of these effects are dose-related, but adverse symptoms may be aggravated by constitutional factors including youthfulness and personality attributes. The Goa government would be doing a disservice to Goans by ignoring the experiences in other parts of the world.

Cannabis and other hallucinating drugs are not new to Goa, but their availability is through clandestine operations. Ever since drugs came to Goa with the hippies in the 1960s their trade and consumption has risen to higher proportions with every passing year. Of 147 peddlers arrested in the state from January 2020 till earlier this month 46 were Goans. In addition to an increase of the percentage of Goans among drug peddlers there is an increase in their percentage among drug consumers. There is fear among the people that growing cannabis in the state would lead to easy availability of the drug leading to more Goans peddling and consuming it. Since prolonged consumption of cannabis and other psychotropic drugs leads to dependence on them, Goan addicts would only get deeper into their addiction and go beyond redemption.

To say that cannabis cultivation will be controlled is a fallacy. The government has failed to effectively control peddling and consumption of drugs in the state. How can it control the cultivation of cannabis? The government should give up the idea altogether. It would be difficult to control the cultivation of cannabis. The already overburdened police would not be able to cope with the added responsibility, allowing unscrupulous elements to derive maximum benefit from the grey area that is likely to be left if the proposal is revived because of pressure from certain quarters. The government cannot ignore the fact that Goa has already gained notoriety for being a drug haven. Any move to facilitate cultivation of hallucinating drugs would only take the state along the way of nations where use of cannabis and other such drugs has caused a havoc leading to increase in crime. Goa has not been able to control abuse of liquor and drugs by young people. Similar could be the case with cannabis, though it is proposed to be cultivated for medicinal use. The Chief Minister should announce that the proposal for cannabis cultivation has been dropped for ever.