Tathagata Satpathy, the BJD’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, called for legalisation of cannabis consumption Thursday. It was not the first time the four-time MP has made this pitch, having done so on TV as well as during the previous monsoon session. His argument in the Lok Sabha Thursday was that banning cannabis consumption has led to increase in alcoholism.
“In the villages of my constituency, old people, venerable people used to smoke marijuana… natural marijuana. Today, by imposing ban on natural substances, which people have been using for ages, from the time of Lord Shiva, we have actually forced a lot of these people to move on to alcohol,” Satpathy said.
“Bhang was a very common intoxicant in the holy city of Puri. You could get it on the roadside. It was legally available there. It is available in Varanasi also. You have made it illegal and it has been replaced by alcohol.” He also connected rising alcohol consumption to rising crime rate.
In March this year, the MP won many young fans with a social media conversation in which he not only admitted having smoked pot when younger but also told youngsters how to get it in his state. In a subsequent interview, Satpathy described the ban on cannabis consumption as “elitist”, brought in during the 1980s allegedly under US pressure, and argued for its legalisation for recreation.
Satpathy also spoke against the “piecemeal bans” on alcohol consumption in various states, a subject on which he got support from many MPs including those of the Shiv Sena.
Satpathy said arbitrary bans on alcohol had led to the rise of an alcohol mafia and unnecessary harassment of people, particularly the young. “Have bans actually helped bring down alcohol consumption? The brightest example is the Gujarat model. The state has been dry since the 1960s, but alcohol is available in every nook and corner of the state… It is the duty of the Centre to tell states not to ban alcohol,” Satpathy said.
Anandrao Adsul (Sena) said alcohol bans led to loss of revenue and hooch tragedies.
The comments were made during a discussion on passage of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Bill that aims to hand over regulation of potable liquor to state governments.