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Vaping marijuana on the rise among Mumbai’s teenagers

Marijuana cartridges for vapes are easily available online, not covered under NDPS Act.

mumbai Updated: Jul 24, 2018 14:56 IST
Faisal Tandel
Faisal Tandel
Hindustan Times
The problem is that refill cartridges of marijuana oil can be ordered online, which means discreet home delivery.(Shutterstock)

For a growing number of teenagers in the city, the ‘pen’ has nothing to do with academics. Instead, it’s a code word for the vaporizer, which has become increasingly commonplace with vaping becoming a popular alternative to conventional smoking. However, instead of harmless liquid flavour, the ‘pen’ vaporizes marijuana oil.

Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police, anti-narcotics cell (ANC) said, “Vaping is the beginning of teenagers getting into drugs. Parents have to be very alert of what their child is doing and monitor their activities.” According to Mumbai Police’s Anti-Narcotic Cell, worried families have been approaching them, reporting teenagers hooked to the ‘pen’. Buying marijuana cartridges is not covered under the Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The ANC believes the ‘pen’ may have replaced the ‘book’, which was the code name for the banned synthetic drug mephedrone.

One of the first instances of vaping marijuana came to light when a 17-year-old boy’s drastic change in personality was reported to the ANC by his distraught parents who suspected the boy’s behaviour was caused by drug use. “The teenager used to get highly irritated when parents asked him questions, which was not his normal self. This prompted the parents, who initially ignored, to confront him. But he still did not tell them about vaping marijuana,” said an ANC officer, requesting anonymity.

ANC officials could not take any action against the teenager, but after seeing the cartridges and the vaporizer, they deduced he was vaping marijuana and counselled him about the possible ill-effects of the drug.

Since then, the ANC has made efforts to verify whether the concerns of parents with similar concerns are legitimate. From online portals, it has confirmed that pens cost between Rs4,500 and Rs7,000. The starting price of refill cartridges is ₹2,000. Officials have also posed as students of a prominent city college and found a group of 10 students vaping marijuana. These students – two girls, eight boys – were brought in for counselling to the ANC unit and their parents were informed.

The difficulty with arresting this trend is that the refill cartridges of marijuana oil can be ordered online, which means discreet home delivery. To compound to ANC’s problems, cannabinoids – the chemical compound in cannabis that once released gives the subject a high – is difficult to detect through urine and blood tests. “This is because the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels will be regulated in those high quality cannabinoids,” added the officer. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada told HT that at least 10 parents approach him every month, asking him to help their children with their marijuana addiction. Parents often find out about their children’s vaping through social media.

Mundada spoke about a case in which a 17-year-old girl’s father saw a picture of her on Facebook in which she was smoking. “She told her father that she smoked hookah once or twice a week with friends, and that it had fruit flavour. But she admitted during her counselling session that her friend used to add marijuana with flavour, which made her go to sleep as soon as she reached home,” said Mundada. Lande and Mundada both advise parents to make sure the children don’t feel threatened or alienated.

“Parents should be friendly to their kids, tell them about the disadvantages of addiction to such products,” said Mundada.

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 11:28 IST