“The Prohibition of Cannabis is Elitist.” An Indian MP’s Objection Stirs Up Debate in the Country

  • Tathagata Satpathy has admitted to smoking marijuana in his youth, and publicly supports its legalisation. The MP explained that it is a substance consumed by the common people, as opposed to alcohol, enjoyed by elites. His frank statements have sparked uproar on the social networks.

Tathagata Satpathy, an MP in the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha, stunned citizens by admitting in a thread on Reddit that he regularly smoked hashish and marijuana in his younger years. His words were picked up by all of India's media, and much discussed on the social networks. 

Satpathy, a member of the regional party Biju Janata Dal, is also a journalist, by profession, and the editor of two newspapers in India. “At university I smoked (and, unlike Clinton, I inhaled) cannabis often. In the towns of Orissa many people smoke openly and, as their representative, I do not have the right to judge them,” explained the MP – with certain sarcasm in his allusion to the ex-president of the United States.

His candid opinions on marijuana, whose possession and sale is illegal in most Indian states, although not in Orissa, have been applauded by many citizens. Satphathy expressed his disagreement with the prohibition of cannabis consumption. “Since Biblical times and even before, including those of the Romans and the South Americans, people have been using psychoactive substances. If it is part of Indian culture, I do not know. But it is definitely a way of life in India,” explained Satpathy in an interview in Times of India, indicating, in addition, that the problem of addiction is really related to one's disposition, as one can also be addicted to candy or salty food. 

Satpathy believes that India overreacted when it prohibited cannabis at the end of the 80s in response to American influence. “We are the USA of the 50s and 60s. We are aspirants. The thought is that if you have a glass of wine people will think that you belong to the upper class. But if you roll a joint people are going to call you a charsi [pothead]. It is an elitist bias. It was during the time of Rajiv Ghandi when India was a primarily elitist state,” the MP declared. “Cannabis was prohibited because it was a drug for the poor.” 


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