A citizen from Sindh filed a petition to legalize ‘bhang‘ (a drink made from cannabis) and the Sindh High Court (SHC) has taken notice. The petitioner Amanullah Soomro wants the court to consider the idea of legalizing the drink.
SHC took up a petition that requests that bhang sales be legalized. In case you’re not aware, bhang is an intoxicating herbal concoction made from cannabis. Legalizing bhang could lead to the legalization of cannabinoids in other forms.
An SHC bench comprising Justice Muhammad Iqbal Mahar and Justice Irshad Ali Shah, has put the Sindh government and the secretaries of health and excise departments on notice for October 16.
Bhang in the Market
The petitioner Amanullah Soomro filed this plea due to bhang disappearing from markets following Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government’s crackdown on the substance.
Bhang has been around since in the sub-continent for it’s ‘divine influence‘. Sufi culture used the concoction to supposedly ‘kill the ego‘. Bhang was openly available in markets, till now.
Amanullah Soomro argues that he had started drinking bhang in 1970.
“I used to buy bhang from shops, but for many years, it is no longer available at shops due to the government’s undeclared ban.”
The man argued that while there’s a ban on bhang, liquor is easily available in the market.
Ethics or Classism?
Amanullah Soomro maintains that bhang is being consumed in all provinces of Pakistan, yet its commercial sale has been ceased. Legalized substances can be regulated. Meanwhile, a ban would provide scam artists a window to swindle.
Prior to the ban, bhang was sold at the shops in the urban and rural towns, as well as villages, of Sindh till 1977. Back then the excise department even issued licenses for its trade.
“With the start of the covert Afghan war during the martial law regime of Ziaul Haq, the drug-peddling of heroin and other narcotic items gradually replaced trade of bhang while an unannounced ban was also slapped on it.”
Soomro contended that bhang was cheaper and a natural intoxicant, not to mention a safe substance, unlike opioids. The prejudice against this substance might be due to that very reason.
“A small sachet of bhang is sufficient for making one glass [of the intoxicant], which can be sold for as little as Rs. 10.”
According to Soomro, liquor and opioids replaced bhang in the market due to their higher prices. In the rest of the world, cheap cannabinoid medication is replacing opioid medication with the legalization of cannabis.
In fact, pharmaceutical companies are facing lawsuits over the sales of unsafe opioid medication like OxyContin.
Cannabis naturally grows in many parts of Pakistan, especially Islamabad.
“The air in Islamabad often carries the scent of bhang.”
Soomro pleaded to SHC to order the Sindh government to issue licenses for bhang shops, similar to those issued to wine shops.
He pointed out that it would result in the government earning excise tax help reduce the consumption of narcotics.