Panaji; Ministers in Goa appear to be a divided lot on regulated cannabis cultivation in the coastal state for medicinal purposes, a day after Law Minister Nilesh Cabral made a strong pitch for such endeavour.
Speaking to reporters in Panaji on Wednesday, Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude said that while the move could help generate employment, it could also lead to adverse social impact. Earlier in the day, he said he did not even know what cannabis was.
“I don’t even know what cannabis is. Whether it is used for ‘ganja’ or for medicinal purposes, I cannot comment on it. I will study it first,” Gaude told reporters.
“If we are looking at it from the employment point of view, we must also spare a thought for the families which may be destroyed on account of such a decision,” Gaude said.
According to Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar, the proposal mooted by the Health Department needed a thorough vetting by experts, to under the long-term impact of the decision.
“It should be studied. This is a matter which deals with people’s health,” Ajgaonkar said. The Cabinet Minister also said that experts needed to be consulted before allowing legal cultivation of cannabis in Goa.
“It should be studied and a report needs to be compiled before taking such a decision… if experts give us good inputs, the government can go ahead with it, but only after a proper study is conducted,” Ajgaonkar said.
The opposition is up in arms over the proposal — which has already been vetted by the Law Department — claiming that the implications would be disastrous for Goa, a tourism-dependent state that is already infamous as a narco-tourism destination.
While Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has maintained that a final decision on the matter is yet to be taken and that the proposal needed Cabinet approval, Law Minister Nilesh Cabral has said that ‘bhang’, a derivative of the cannabis plant, is already legally sold in seven Indian states.
“In seven states in India, a form of this (cannabis) plant, known as ‘bhang’, is already available. Bhang is sold across the counter in some states in licensed stores like liquor vends elsewhere,” Cabral said on Tuesday.
The Goa Forward party has opposed the move, saying it may lead the youth in Goa to ruin.
“How will this benefit the youth of Goa? Is this needed for their future?” Goa Forward President and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai had asked.
The Shiv Sena in Goa had also opposed the move and its state President Jitesh Kamat said sarcastically: “Now that farmers in Goa will be allowed to farm cannabis, the government should now consider issuing them Krishi cards”.