There is very little doubt that the internet is an increasingly important platform for drug users and those concerned about them to find out what is going on in Sri Lanka. What is less certain is whether or not this platform is correctly used or what the effects of such use might be. In fact, the opposite is true.
In recent years the internet has become a constant state of affairs in many parts of the world. The internet has become the dominant communication channel for a range of activities ranging from business and commerce to personal and recreational hobbies. Drug use has become a part of everyday life for many in these latter categories. The extent to which this happens in Sri Lanka is unknown.
New forms of media have allowed for the spread of information and ideas beyond the reach of the eyes of government. Such distribution can be seen in the spread of anti-drug messages in Sri Lanka on the internet. These messages are not necessarily misguiding messages that encourage abuse, but can be more persuasive messages that could help to educate users about the dangers of using cannabis.
The Sri Lankan government however has taken the initiative to try and reduce the incidence of drug use, not only because it would like to be seen as a leader in the continent, but also to be seen as upholding an international standard for acceptable standards. It is hoped that by controlling the sale of cannabis, it will be seen as a step towards this standard.
This comes at a time when more countries are placing cannabis law within the ambit of international criminal law. The Sri Lankan government has seen its attempt to place cannabis law within the legal domain as a serious threat to national security.
In general, the Sri Lankan government has been very circumspect about the issue of cannabis law and has avoided staking out positions that are clearly seen as inconsistent with its efforts to avoid international intervention. This is in contrast to neighbouring countries where the governments have been far more clear and outspoken in asserting their intent to legislate against cannabis.
For example, the government of India has been very vocal in claiming that it has passed legislation against the cultivation of cannabis. On the other hand, there have been cases where India has taken no official position on the issue. It has, for example, vigorously pursued cases against those who were alleged to have sent cannabis via internet.
The state of Kerala, in India, is a case in point. While there has been no official prohibition against the cultivation of cannabis in Kerala, there have been some very limited prosecutions of cultivation. What this means is that cannabis law remains under the control of the states in which they are enacted.
In contrast, in the state of Kerala, where cannabis law has been more strenuously enforced, all individuals who have any dealings with cannabis are liable to face the potential of being prosecuted. The effect of this is that while in the rest of India these types of cases are mostly considered as exceptions, in Kerala such cases are seen as the norm.
It is important to remember that cannabis law remains in the hands of the states. In cases where the states refuse to implement national legislation, this serves to make cannabis law the same across the board.
This has consequences in a variety of ways, and one of them is that those who use cannabis are at the mercy of the laws of the states in which they live. They can choose between prosecution and a relaxed or even lenient punishment.
If the drug trade is to be brought under the legal framework, a better understanding of the state of cannabis law in Sri Lanka might be helpful. Such an understanding would enable the government to determine the likely impact of its various anti-cannabis initiatives.