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FAQ: What is 420 and cannabis culture? History and legal status in India

FAQ: What is 420 and cannabis culture? History and legal status in India

FAQ: What is 420 and cannabis culture? History and legal status in India
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By Abhishek Jha  Apr 20, 2022 11:47:38 PM IST (Updated)

April 20 is also known as world cannabis day. Why so and what is the significance? What is the legal status in India and across the world? Read on for the story behind 420.

One may have seen the mention of 420 in pop culture in films like the Pineapple Express, songs like Roll Another Number by Neil Young and television shows like Weed The People on Netflix. Contemporary pop culture is rife with references to 420 as a code of sorts a culture associated with smoking marijuana. 

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For starters, it’s pronounced “four twenty”, never “four two zero” or “four hundred and twenty”, Here’s a look at how this term came to be associated with cannabis consumption and culture.
The most widely accepted origin story is one where a group of high school students in California in the 1970s started meeting at 4.20 pm, at a particular spot, in order to smoke cannabis together.
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Soon, they would say “420” whenever they were talking about marijuana. Later, one of them, Dave Reddix, started working with the legendary psychedelic rock band, The Grateful Dead, while they were on the road. 
Once the band caught on to the term, it quickly became popular among fans of the band who then handed out flyers for others to smoke marijuana at 4.20 pm on April 20 (4/20 when written in the American style). Thus, the cult commemoration day was born.
Current status in India
Closer home too, references to marijuana consumption have been sprinkled throughout mainstream pop culture in India over the years. Think every holi song where the main characters enjoy some bhaang before letting their hair down, all the way to Babaji Ki Booti and Manali trance.
So, what's legal and what's not
As per the central law governing this issue – the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act – trade and consumption of marijuana is illegal in India. However, the central government has allowed states to take a call on whether cannabis cultivation for medical purposes should be legal. States like Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Manipur taking it up
Moreover, the main law also does not restrict the use of seeds and leaves of the plant– only the use of fruiting flowers or buds is banned. This has allowed companies to make the most of the hemp market. Several startups such as BOHECO, Satliva, and Hempsters, to name a few, are selling extracted oil and tablets marketed for pain relief, pet anxiety etc.
International status
So far Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay, Georgia, the Australian capital region, and 18 states of the US have legalised recreational marijuana and many more seem to be following in their footsteps.
The list is even longer for countries – including countries like Thailand and Netherlands  – that have legalised only medical marijuana.
In December 2020, the United Nations passed a resolution to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the category of 'most dangerous substances' and India voted in favour of this move.
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