It is legal in Thailand to grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes. As advised by Chiang Mai University’s Department of Animal & Animal Sciences, farmers in the Northern region of Thailand are growing marijuana and feeding the seeds of cannabis to chickens since January 2021 in lieu of the regular antibiotic mixed feeds. Crushed cannabis is also added to the water given to them. Following this, fewer than the usual 10% of chickens have died at the farm in Lampang. ‘Free-range’ chickens, so reared without antibiotics in their feeds, are referred to as ‘GanjaChickens’ and fetch higher prices. Their meat is said to be more tender and tastier because of lower body fat. Such meat also makes delicious ‘Khao Min Gai’ or chicken rice. Consumers of such chicken meat do not get high after eating it!
Though the cultivation of cannabis is not allowed in India too, an online-ad gives information about a certain ‘GanjaChicken’ restaurant in Rohtak which serves whole chicken stuffed with cannabis. Some other restaurants in the city serve ‘Nasi Ganja’.
My book ‘Reflections down the Ages’ has an item titled ‘Jai Bholenath for Cannabis’. The heyday of cannabis usage in Nepal started with the Hippie Era in Kathmandu. An Eden Hashish Centre existed in late 1960 at Jochem / Freak Street. Its menu listed delicacies such as Hashish Milk, Hashish Coffee, Ganja Lemon Tea, Hashish Toasted Egg, Hashish Cake and Hashish Chocolate, all of which were served there.
Then US Vice-President, Spiro Agnew who visited Nepal in 1969 is said to have spotted the Hashish Centre whilst visiting Basantapur. US authorities were very concerned as they thought that many citizens of their land came to Nepal as Flower Children to avoid the draft to fight in Vietnam. Cannabis usage, then legal in Nepal, was made illegal under US pressure on 16th July 1973. The fact that a fire started at the Singha Durbar the next day and almost destroyed it completely is attributed by many Nepalis as retribution from an angry Lord Shiva!
The present trend is that cannabis for medicinal purposes has been legalised in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Spain and many states of the US. Australia has been growing medical cannabis at Midura, Victoria. Cannabis is said to be beneficial to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and in some stages of AIDS. Its medicinal use was legalised in California in 1996. Since 2015 there has been in California a women’s group known as Sisters of the Valley or ‘Weed Nuns’ who grow cannabis in a ritualistic pattern and harvest it only on new moon night. The fresh ganja or the CBD infused oil or salve produced there are dispatched globally. It may also be noted that the UN Narcotics Control Agency in Vienna declassified ganja as a narcotic in Dec. 2020. The sentencing of US athlete Brittney Griner in July to nine years in prison for the possession of cannabis in Russia shows the non-unanimity about the benefits of the substance!
Ganja has been a traditional part of the Nepali culture for ages. Elderly persons, usually members of Bhajan Mandalis scattered in various parts of the country, generally passed the chillum around as they sang songs of praise to the deity. It was an essential item in the daily lives of Sadhus or the Aghori Babas, meditating along the burning ghats. Formerly, devotees coming to Kathmandu for Shivaratri were provided their quota of ganja, or money in lieu thereof. It is quite in order of Nepalis to consume drinks or mithais laced with bhang during the Holi festivities.
Nearly three years ago, Shri Sher Bahadur Tamang a member of our House of Representatives, registered a bill in our Parliament to manage and regulate marijuana farming in the country. No copies of the bill have been circulated and received by the members up to now. On 23rd June this year he brought up this question again, stating that it is a violation on the rights of the people’s representatives! This bill is now one among forty-nine, still pending for years, to be presented in Parliament. Though elections have been announced, pending bills will hopefully be finalised soon before Federal Parliament adjourns. Cannot those bills still remaining be taken up by the ever functional Rastriya Sabha and have further discussions on them? The final formats can be presented to the post elections new parliament.
The reality in our country is that our police personnel periodically destroy marijuana crops at various sites in Nepal. Such is the action of our authorities on poor farmers for growing of cannabis which should in fact be encouraged, for its cultivation is said to increase soil fertility. Cannabis has manifold uses and its leaves can be eaten as vegetable. The fibres of the plant last long and do not decay when immersed for long periods in water. Other uses are as fabric, ropes and as panels for pre-fabs. A Nepal based concern Davo, with its outlet in Durbar Marg is offering hemp cloth, soaps, oils, balms and shampoo which are cannabis based for sale. The need of the hour is to immediately pass the bill that is languishing in our parliament.
A report by United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNOCD), quoted by Deutsche Welle, states that the Covid-19 lockdown has seen an increase in cannabis consumption all over the world. A huge cannabis industry is developing in Africa and Uganda is becoming a supplier of cannabis to Germany. The German coalition government formed in Dec. 2021 has plans to legalise cannabis in the country. Currently cannabis is legally available in coffee shops of ten major towns of the Netherlands.
Sadly, as many Nepali youth are addicted to various substances, there is the danger that they will switch onto cannabis when it is easily available. They might go on to use Vapo pens with cannabidiol (CBD) or liquid cannabis. If the ban on cannabis is lifted, there must be extensive awareness campaigns, as is done for smoking, on a continuous basis to make the public knowledgeable about its hazards too. Western Nepal has a reputation for best ganja in the country. If its use is legalised, it can be commercially cultivated and many Nepalis will not have to go to India for low paid jobs. People trying to exploit the situation and destroy the lives of others must be caught and punished severely.
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