The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, established in 1893-94, has been a significant chapter in the history of the Indian subcontinent's drug regulations. The commission was instituted during the British rule in India to study the effects of the cannabis drug consumed in various forms. It was sparked off by an international demand, primarily led by the United Kingdom, to eliminate the trade of hemp drugs due to health concerns.
1. Members of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission
The commission was constituted under the leadership of W. Mackworth Young, the then Indian Civil Secretary. It included Mr. W. Mackworth Young (Indian Civil Service), Major S. R. I. Barnes, Mr. G. A. Grierson, Mr. R. N. Chopra, Major C. J. Hamilton, Captain J. M. D. Lloyd, Babu Har Mohan Mukerji, Dr. R. R. Dutt, and Raja Soshi Sikhareswar Roy. This team comprised bureaucrats, military officials, doctors, and representatives of the agriculturist community to ensure a comprehensive assessment.
2. Study conducted by the Commission
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission was essentially an investigative body. It was entrusted with the task of understanding the physical, mental, and moral aspects of cannabis consumption in India. The commission was supposed to evaluate whether or not it was desirable to prohibit the cultivation of hemp and the preparation of drugs from it.
To gather information and data, the commission conducted extensive research, interviewing hundreds of traditional healers, religious figures, addicts, government officials, and medical professionals. It reviewed both the cultural and recreational use of cannabis and utilized anthropological methods to gauge the social and health impacts.
3. Recommendations of the Commission
Contrary to the global view, the report by the Commission leaned towards a lenient control over hemp narcotics rather than a complete ban. Its study led to the conclusion that moderate use of hemp drugs was relatively harmless and according to the Indigenous Medical Systems, could be beneficial. The report stated that cannabis, taken in moderation, was no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco and that its excessive use was rare in India.
Furthermore, they recommended against stopping the use of hemp in indigenous drugs, as there were several benefits associated with it. However, they underscored the need for regulating and reducing the consumption of these drugs, primarily in excisable forms.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission's observations were remarkably balanced and reflected a deep understanding of India's traditional practices. They took into consideration native practices, social behaviours, and medical usages, which were pivotal in shaping modern viewpoints on the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis.
The Commission’s pioneering effort to study cannabis use in an objective, scientific, and detailed manner has remained relevant to contemporary policy debates. Its careful collection of data, testimonies and analysis continue to hold valuable lessons for understanding the impact of psychoactive substances on society.
In conclusion, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, its studies, and recommendations paint a fascinating picture of the colonial administration struggling between policy considerations and societal norms at a time when the world was grappling with rising concerns about drug use and its implications on society. The commission’s endeavor sets a vivid precedent for present-day policy-making ensuring a balanced perspective on drug law and narcotics control.