Indians love to get high on weed.
In 2018, the country’s two biggest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai, consumed 38.2 tonnes and 32.4 tonnes of marijuana, respectively—among the highest in the world, according to a study by the German data firm ABCD.
While Delhi ranked third in the list of 120 cities by consumption of weed, behind New York and Karachi, Mumbai ranked sixth.
ABCD’s numbers are based on the annual prevalence of weed (percentage of population that has used the substance in the past year) estimated by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.
The study also found that Delhi is among the cheapest places in the world to buy weed. Latin America, though, is the haven for those who love to keep rolling. Five cities from the continent are on the list of 10 cheapest places to buy marijuana. New Delhi and Mumbai are at the 10th and 11th spot in the list.
However, the failure to completely legalise marijuana in India is leading to a huge loss of tax revenue.
Presently, India allows the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes (such as hemp that is used to make fibre), but its consumption could lead to a jail term of six months or a fine of Rs10,000. Illegal production and cultivation can lead to a jail term of up to 10 years.
The report assessed how much tax a city can garner by legalising weed.
New Delhi alone could raise up to Rs725 crore ($101.2 million) a year, while Mumbai can raise Rs641 crore if weed is taxed at the same rate as the most popular cigarette in the city. If the average US tax rate on marijuana tax were applied, Delhi can raise Rs 225 crore and Mumbai Rs 199 crore, the study revealed.
India’s stone affair
The cannabis plant is quite common in hilly states in India like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, even though its cultivation and trade are partially restricted.
Cannabis dominated India’s illicit drug trade, according to 2016 data on drug seizures.
Notably, India alone accounted for 6% of the world’s cannabis herb seizures in 2016 (nearly 300 tonnes), and even higher quantities in 2017 (353 tonnes)—a 20% per cent increase compared to 2016, as per the report by UN Office of Drugs and Crime.
The statistics have triggered attempts to make marijuana use legal. In fact, in 2015, a member of parliament pushed to legalise marijuana, citing the benefits of consuming weed. Besides, experts are also arguing that the step could help India in dealing with its agrarian crisis.
“Illegal cannabis use is so high in countries that still carry the death penalty, such as Pakistan and Egypt. Those in power ought to see how desperately new legislation is needed,” Uri Zeevi, CMO at Seedo, an Israel-based firm that sells devices to grow weed at home, said in the ABCD report. “By removing the criminal element from marijuana, governments will be able to more safely regulate the production, take away power from underground gangs, and as we’ve shown in this study, generate huge tax revenues.”