November 30, 2023 12:17 pm

Legalising Opium Cultivation Will Boost Farmers’ Income, Dilute Menace of Synthetic Drugs in Punjab

Around 67% of people Punjab are addicted to synthetic drugs like heroin (Chitta) so the state must come forward to replace and reduce the most abused synthetic drugs with the farming of poppy which produces khaskhas, poppy husk and opium

As Punjab tries to wriggle out of the grip of the rampant drug menace, the farmers as well as policy-makers have been pushing for legalising opium poppy cultivation, arguing it will increase farmers’ income and help fight against fatal synthetic drugs.

India is one among 12 countries where the legalisation of a natural drug like opium poppy cultivation for medical purposes is allowed in a controlled manner by The Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), which issues licences to farmers to cultivate opium poppies. Around 6,500 hectares in MP, UP and Rajasthan are under cultivation of poppy, but it is not allowed in Punjab.

The Central government once must see it with a new dimension when Punjab is already in the grip of synthetic drugs and heroin being smuggled across the border from Pakistan, despite a constant vigil of security agencies. The National Drug Policy can be revisited on the controlled manner of cultivation of these high-value cash crops like opium, which is not so fatal as compared to synthetic drugs.

An estimated 200 synthetic drug overdose deaths have been reported in Punjab during 2022. Different studies reveal that around 67% of people Punjab are addicted to synthetic drugs like heroin (Chitta) so the state must come forward to replace and reduce the most abused synthetic drugs with the farming of poppy which produces khaskhas, poppy husk and opium. Maharashtra and West Bengal governments are also seeking permission for the same.RELATED NEWS

In 1985, when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was enforced, poppy cultivation was banned in Punjab. Yet in rural areas, there is a common perception that till the time recreational drugs like opium and poppy husk were legal, the menace of synthetic drugs was unheard of.

Medical experts also believe that a large number of people can be weaned away from more harmful synthetic drugs if the government allows medically supervised, regulated production of opium.

Economics of Opium


The studies conducted in the states where the central government allows opium poppy cultivation, a farmer can harvest 45-50 kg poppy per hectare and earn up to Rs 5-6 lakh, which can lead to crop diversification in Punjab that has always been talked about but never achieved. This initiative could go a long way in addressing the farm crisis, reeling under massive debt, a good return from poppy cultivation will help them break the debt trap.ADVERTISEMENT 

The economics of opium works in two ways. Legally, a grower gets around Rs 70,000 per kg for opium, Rs 1,200-1,500 for poppy husk and Rs 1,500-1,700 for poppy seeds widely known as khuskhus.

Substitute for Synthetic Drugs


In the medieval period of 980-1037 AD, Avicenna, a famous Persian scholar described that opium has been used as a base for the opioid class of herbal drugs. The NDPS Act, empowers the state governments to permit and regulate the supply of opium to drug addicts where such supplies are for medical and scientific purposes.

The central government sells opium to the state governments who, in turn, supply it to the drug addicts’ rehabilitation centres.ADVERTISEMENT 

Opium gum contains several indispensable alkaloids such as morphine, codeine and thebaine. Morphine is the best analgesic in the world. In the case of extreme and excruciating pain such as that of terminally ill cancer patients, nothing alleviates the suffering except morphine. Codeine is commonly used in the manufacture of cough syrups.

Policy-Makers’ Advocacy

During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, more than two lakh farmers of Punjab filled up forms seeking legalisation of opium cultivation, submitted to then CM Capt. Amarinder Singh. Ex-MP and cardiologist Dr Dharmvir Gandhi, who had moved a private member’s bill in Parliament in 2016, seeking legalisation of the recreational use of marijuana, had also supported by then MP Vinod Khanna.

Former MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said, “The financial condition of small farmers will change drastically if the government allows each farmer to cultivate opium even on an acre of land. The government cannot put a complete end to drugs. That’s impossible. What we can do is we can replace more dangerous ‘Chitta’ with natural drugs.”

Human Approach

There is a need for a human approach to decriminalisation of natural drugs such as opium, marijuana and poppy husk by bringing out a suitable amendment in the NDPS Act, 1985.

Countries like the US, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Uruguay, and Portugal have decriminalised natural drug addicts. These countries have adopted a new approach. They have begun treating drug addicts like patients and not criminals, whereas in India consumers have been labelled criminals. For consuming a small amount of opium husk or marijuana there’s 10 years’ imprisonment for a first offence, and lakhs of people have suffered because of this inhumane law.

The Way Forward

Under the present framework of law, there should not be any problem in legalising opium farming in Punjab since it is allowed in three states of the country. Can the government ban grape and cane cultivation just because wine and alcohol are derived from them? Even cereals are used to produce alcohol. Poppy cultivation will boost farmers’ income and the menace of fatal synthetic drugs can be diluted to save hundre ON.

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