Former US President Donald Trump is now on the sidelines of the American political scene for over seven months. His slogans of ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ are still reverberating in many U.S. state capitals. We in Nepal should copy his first slogan with the modification of an additional ‘Now’. This is in response to the announcements by two Ministers in PM Deuba’s cabinet when inducted into the cabinet. The Energy Minister has plans to reduce electricity tariffs to encourage its use for domestic purposes thereby reducing the import of gas from India. The Finance Minister encouraged local entrepreneurs to start small scale industries for production of goods for internal consumption and thus reducing imports. A high level trade mechanism proposal stated more stress has to be taken to reduce import of non essential items from elsewhere out of country. Kudos to both ministers. A first step could be reducing electric changes for domestic use.
A recent item in Setopati Online was about two Nepalis brothers with a family background in the production of clothes and a friend, all three of whom had studied in the US and wanted to start some enterprise in Nepal. Aware of the craze for hemp based clothing in New York they, in around 2015 started efforts of making clothing from hemp in Nepal. This hemp based product was marketed under a Trade Mark of ‘Stemp’ i.e. Stem & Hemp or ‘Styled with hemp’. In the post earthquake period their efforts did not initially make much progress. Later, because of the limited demand in Nepal for such wear, they concentrated on making material, both rough and soft and exporting these to New York.
All very good for one has to keep in mind that one of our legislators has been attempting in the house to make it legal to grow ganja or hemp in Nepal and popularise the use of its various products for the country’s benefit. However news in a National Daily in the third week of August reported that our police force was hell bent in catching and imprisoning of people involved in the movement of ganja. Isn’t it time to revise the law, a proposal of which has been stagnating in our House. Will something be done now?
Some advocates for cannabis, ganja or hashish claim that it was during the Samundra Manthan that Lord Shiva discovered it. Many state that cannabis is a herb, in usage in our part of the world since ages past and not a drug. To give an idea of the heyday of cannabis usage in Nepal during the Hippie Era in Kathmandu I am quoting from my ‘Reflections Down the Ages’. An Eden Hashish Centre, started by DD Sharma in the late 1960s at Jhochhen / Freak Street was the nucleus. This centre was spotted by no less a person than US Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1970 whilst visiting Basantapur.
Cannabis was in fact legal in Nepal till 1973 when US pressure made it illegal. The book Far Out states that it was on 16th July 1973 that HMG Nepal banned cannabis. The subsequent fire that broke out in Singha Durbar and almost completely destroyed the building is attributed by many to an angry Lord Shiva! Being part of culture, Nepalis who are Mithila Basi maintain that if one does not use bhang during Holi then you have desecrated the whole celebration!
If the ban of cannabis is to be reversed, then there must be a massive awareness campaign to make the public aware of its hazards too? The worrying point is the implementation and success for such campaigns. One notes that similar actions about the hazards of smoking and alcohol – two items which are hugely popular and in extensive use. The government, not only in Nepal but in many parts of the world, are loathe to totally ban the consumption of both items as this will result in a massive decrease in government revenue. The question for us Nepalis is simply ke garne?
As stated earlier a private member’s bill, registered in Parliament in March 2020 for legalising commercial marijuana cultivation and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Nepal has still to be fully discussed and action taken. The current reality is that as late as the fourth week of August 2021, our Nepali security personnel destroyed cannabis being grown at Khalanga, the district headquarters of Jumla.
A medical colleague of mine recently posted a suggestion in Facebook those sugarcane farmers, not being paid by the sugar mill owners for ages should now switch over to vegetable farming as these would give regular returns on time. A superb idea. If cannabis is legalised in Nepal then hemp farming would certainly be an even better alternative!
Besides the use of cannabis for linens and clothing industry, a major use is for building houses. The place where this is done is ‘Down Under’ in Australia. Concrete is replaced by hemp in Crete, Hempcrate or Hemp blocks used for building many residential buildings. Parquet flooring from cannabis plants are as good as those from bamboos. The buildings so constructed are claimed to be economical to build and comfortable residences to spend ones days in!
Cannabis seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and have been used in our part of the world for centuries. Its use was limited until outsiders tried to increase its use in leaps and bounds to hazardous levels in lands far off for financial gains. This is the situation was created by colonisers in many parts of the world to subjugate those they termed natives!
The claim of the hemp / soybean car proposed by Henry Ford in 1941 is mythical. Our 21st Century option, for bio-fuel generation from hemp is realistic. The bottom line is that growing and use of cannabis should be legalised. A philosophical attitude of hemp expressed in Facebook is: “Where there is weed there is always solitude and quietude, where there is alcohol there is always noise and chaos!”
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd