Is smoking weed or ganja illegal in India?
Team SoOLEGAL 4 Sep 2023

Is smoking weed or ganja illegal in India?

India's central law, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, prohibits weed consumption, possession, sale, or purchase. However, states have their own legislation, making weed possession a criminal conduct and posing legal issues associated with it.

Weed’s definition as per NDPS Act, 1985

As per Section 2 (iii) and (iv)  of the NDPS Act, 1985, weed is defined as:

(iii) cannabis (hemp) means:

1.     charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;

2.     ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and

3.     any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink, prepared therefrom;


(iv) cannabis plant means any plant of the genus cannabis;”

The definition of cannabis under the NDPS Act excludes bhang as a component of the plant.


The sale and manufacture of cannabis resin and flowers is prohibited by the NDPS Act, but the use of cannabis plant leaves and seeds is permitted, with states having the ability to regulate and execute state legislation. Section 10 of the NDPS Act of 1985 gives the states this ability. Anyone found with any of these cannabis plant components might face arrest. 

Legal position of weed in different states

Cannabis is not completely prohibited under the NDPS Act, and it can be utilized for medicinal, scientific, industrial, and horticultural reasons with the necessary approvals from the individual state governments.

1. Odisha is one of the Indian states where marijuana is legal, and inhabitants commonly consume it with 'chillums' within the state's borders.

2. Uttarakhand is India's first state to legalize commercial hemp production. Many other hilly states are contemplating permitting controlled hemp and marijuana growing since it is a wealthy crop that uses less water.

3. The Assam Ganja and Bhang Prohibition Act, 1958, makes the sale, possession, purchase, and use of ganja and bhang illegal in the state.

4. The Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949 makes it unlawful in Maharashtra to manufacture, possess, or consume bhang or bhang-containing drugs without a permit.

Acts pertaining to consumption of drugs

There are three legislations that determine punishment if you are caught carrying weed in India. These are: 

1.     The NDPS Act, 1985 

2.     The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000

3.     State laws


Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 makes it illegal to produce, sell, buy, transport, interstate import/export, or engage in any other commercial transaction involving cannabis. The purpose of drug possession is unimportant, and the punishment is decided by the amount of drugs in possession. As a result, of the two components of crime, actus reus and mens rea, only actus reus is sufficient to prosecute a person under this Act. If a person is apprehended with drugs or is proven to be a drug addict, he or she will not be punished if he or she agrees to voluntarily undergo de-addiction therapy.

Section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985: punishment for possession of weed

As we all know, punishment is proportional to the amount of possession. As a result, we must understand how much amount is used for personal or commercial purposes.

Small quantity 

1.     Hashish or Charas: less than or equal to 100 grams

2.     Opium: less than or equal to 25 grams

3.     Ganja: less than or equal to 1000 grams

Commercial quantity 

1.     Hashish or Charas: More than or equal to 1 kilograms

2.     Opium: More than or equal to 2.5 kilograms

3.     Ganja: More than or equal to 20 kilograms



For cultivation of cannabis plant

The statutory punishment for cultivating any cannabis plant is a term up to ten years of imprisonment and a fine extending up to to Rs. 1 lakh.

For production, manufacturing, possession, sale and purchase, transit, interstate import and extortion

The statutory punishment for possessing a small quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of Rs. 10,000, or both.

The statutory punishment for possessing more than a small quantity but less than the commercial quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh, or both.

The statutory punishment for possessing commercial quantity is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10-20 years, a fine of Rs. 1-2 lakh, or both.

Other sections of the NDPS Act which deals with punishment for possession/consumption of weed.

Section 27 specifies the penalties for consuming any of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

The nature of the offence

Offences committed under Section 27 of the NDPS are non-bailable and cognizable (as stated in Section 37 of the NDPS Act).

Section 28

Section 28 specifies the penalty for attempting to conduct an NDPS Act-specified offence. It is so declared that whoever attempts to commit any offence punishable under this Chapter or causes such offence to be committed and undertakes any act towards the conduct of the offence must be punished with the punishment stipulated for the offence.

Section 29

This section outlines the penalties for abetment and criminal conspiracy. It is specified that whomever abets or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit any penal offence will be punished with the punishment imposed for the offence, whether or not the offence is or is not committed as a result of such abetment or in furtherance of such criminal conspiracy.

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Should India legalize Weed Consumption

India's government has the option to legalize weed, which would be more beneficial than harmful. Legalization would provide safety and product quality assurance, reduce victimization, sanction risks, search costs, and psychological discomfort associated with illegal goods, leading to lower quality-adjusted relative prices. Retail prices would also fall due to supply-side risk, resulting in increased consumption. Legalization would also generate more tax revenue, employment, and investment opportunities due to marijuana's high monetary value. Additionally, the government could tap into the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of weed through research and clinical trials. Overall, legalization would be a significant economic benefit for India.

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