What two American states, Washington and Colorado, have decided to do – legalize recreational use of marijuana – was the norm in India until 1985. All cannabisderivatives – marijuana (grass or ganja), hashish (charas) and bhang – were legally sold in this country. As a matter of fact, most state governments had their own retail shops to sell these drugs. India has known, consumed and celebrated ganja, charas and bhang for millennia.
Their consumption was never regarded as socially deviant behaviour any more than drinking alcohol was. If there was any bias against ganja or charas, it was that these were often viewed as the poor man’s intoxicant by the upper classes. But come Holi, these prejudices would melt away as rich and poor savoured the joyous high of bhang. Even now, despite a legal ban, recreational use of these drugs is widespread in India.