Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has suggested legalising marijuana, a psychoactive drug, in India for medical purposes on the lines of the practice adopted by some developed countries like the US to curb drug abuse.
The suggestion was made by Gandhi at a meeting of a group of ministers (GOM), which examined the draft cabinet note National Drug Demand Reduction Policy, according to the minutes of the second meeting, a copy of which is with PTI.
The GoM approved the draft national policy with minor modifications suggested in the meeting.
Gandhi informed that in "some of the developed countries like the US, marijuana has been legalised which ultimately results in less drug abuse".
She said that "the possibility of the same maybe explored in India", as per the document.
When asked to elaborate, Gandhi told PTI that "marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes, especially as it serves a purpose in cancer".
During the meeting of the GoM, which was chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Gandhi also stressed on the need for regulating the sale and availability of pharmaceutical drugs such as codeine cough syrups and inhalants among others which are being abused.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the GoM to examine the draft policy for drug demand reduction which seeks to address the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country.
Referring to the national survey on drug abuse, conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice in collaboration with AIIMS, which covers students, transgenders and sex workers among others, Gandhi said children especially those living in and around major railway stations should also be covered.
She also suggested exploring the possibility of setting up de-addiction centres near these railway stations.
On the issue of legalising drugs in the country, the Social Justice and Empowerment Secretary G Latha Krishna Rao said "it may not be appropriate to legalise such drugs" in view of the large population and low level of literacy in the country and added that the possibility could be explored in future.
As per the document, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar observed that drugs were easily available outside schools and colleges and said that an action plan needs to be drawn to create awareness and sensitise students against drug abuse in schools, colleges and universities.
Singh, who is also the minister of parliamentary affairs, said that the role of home ministry should also be well defined in the proposed policy.
The GoM also recommended the projected budget estimate of Rs 125 crore annually for implementation of the policy.
In an earlier meeting, the GoM had proposed preparing an action plan for controlling over the counter sale of sedatives, pain killers, muscle relaxants among others and preparing treatment modules for different age groups, including the subject of treatment of drug addicts as part of MBBS curriculum.
It also sought setting up of de-addiction centres in all prisons, juvenile homes, factories and industries.