Ganja, ganja everywhere but India’s getting high on a lot more

Light it up.
Light it up.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave
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If one were to use drug seizure data as a proxy for what India’s getting high on, here’s the status report for 2016.

Ganja (aka marijuana and weed) is all over the place, with a steady smattering of hashish. Opium and heroine are holding strong, but cocaine and ketamine are down. And the big new play is in methaqualone and ephedrine.

Just take a look at the numbers.

Evidently, marijuana is, by far, the dominant force is India’s illicit drug trade, with no other narcotic coming even close. And it isn’t the sheer volume of the trade alone. Even the geographical spread of ganja hauls is unmatched among all narcotics seized in India last year.

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It’s quite another matter for drugs like methaqualone and ephedrine, which were seized is unusually large quantities last year. Hauls of methaqualone (aka Quaalude and Mandrax) were only made across five states in 2016, according to government data (pdf). Apart from two small hauls in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, a little under 30 kilograms (kg) of the sedative was seized in Karnataka, around 55kg in Maharashtra, and an incredible 23,519kg in New Delhi. The New Delhi haul was reportedly worth Rs 4,700 crore, probably the largest drug bust in India ever.

Ditto for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, key ingredients for making methamphetamine. In 2016, these narcotics were seized only in six states. Five of them—Assam, Karnataka, Mizoram, New Delhi, and Tamil Nadu—recorded hauls that totalled under 500kg. The big bust was 44,503kg in Maharashtra.

And what happens to all this seized stuff?

There’s is a detailed procedure for disposal of seized drugs that must be followed by all Indian drug law enforcement agencies, the ministry of home affairs told parliament recently (pdf). “The seized drugs are disposed off only after obtaining order from the concerned court by the drug disposal committee as specified in the guidelines or notifications in this regard,” the ministry said.

But the disposal rate seems rather shoddy. Consider, for instance, what happens to India’s massive ganja hauls.

Wonder where the rest of it is going.