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Nepal Looks to Legalize Marijuana

PHOTO James Wheeler


Nepal Looks to Legalize Marijuana

Bill advocates the legalization of cannabis in one of its ancient homelands.

One of the highest countries in the world is seeing a new effort to legalize marijuana. 

Nepal, located 2,565 meters above sea level, has seen a wave of momentum on the cannabis reform front. 

It all started earlier this year in January when Birodh Khatiwada, a lawmaker from Nepal’s ruling Communist Party, filed a bill in the nation’s federal parliament registering a motion of public importance around parliament advocating the legalization of cannabis. Khatiwada was able to get 45 of his peers in parliament to support the effort. Khatiwada’s home district of Makawanpur is said to be among the biggest producers of cannabis in Nepal. 

One of the other wild aspects of that request was it also called for a ban on imports of foreign alcohol imports. But The Katmandu Post reported those imports had already been on the decline as domestic alcohol production had been ramping up in recent years. 

Things took another stop this month when a bill demanding the government open up marijuana cultivation to Nepal’s agriculture sector was filed March 2.. Adding extra weight to the cause, the man who filed the bill was Sher Bahadur Tamang. 

Tamang was elected in 2017 and quickly became Law Minister. Unfortunately for him, he made some remarks about female Nepalese students abroad that really made everyone upset and the party forced him to step down from the position. 

It gets a little fuzzy on how exactly the mechanics of the cannabis legalization bill will work from there. But make no mistake, it’s big news in the New York-sized country of 30 million people. This week, the English language version of OnlineKhabar noted it’s not really clear if the bill is actually legalizing marijuana for recreational use. 

According To OnlineKhabar, everyone in Nepal was generally cool with pot up until the 1960s and ’70s. And it wasn’t that they changed their minds, but forces abroad at the United Nations and in the United States saw all the hippies heading to the Katmandu Valley to smoke weed and do psychedelics and they weren’t impressed. Add that international pressure to the local pressure from people realizing that maybe they didn’t want to deal with first-generation wooks all the time, and you had the recipe for Nepal’s Narcotic Drugs Control Act of 1973. 

But as with many places around the world, cannabis prohibition has certainly failed in Nepal over the last 50 years. According to data from the countries Narcotics Control Bureau, one could even argue marijuana has seen a massive upswing in popularity in recent years. Between 2017 and 2017 Nepalese authorities seized about 17,762 plants across the country. From 2018-2019 that number jumped 10 times to 198,492 plants. Authorities also reported seizing 9633.5 kg [21,238.23 pounds] of cannabis and 2390.8 kg [5270 pounds] of hashish in the final three months of 2019. 

Lawmakers cited watching other places legalize marijuana in their push. It’s not hard to imagine the people of cannabis’s ancestral homeland saw the policy flip happening in the Western world and essentially said, “Why are we listening to these guys again?”

If the bill is successful, even more of Nepal’s farmers will feel comfortable growing the nation’s storied genetics. Nepali landraces are famous for their hash making properties and in the right conditions can soar to 15 feet tall. But they are also out there on the sativa side and the stringy buds aren’t too appealing. Hybridizations with Afghanis and other strains have certainly given them more sway with Western consumers.  

Regardless of the current wave of excitement in Nepal, Thailand remains the undisputed king of Asian cannabis hype at the moment. In addition to having more than twice the population of Nepal and their own landrace genetics, the ball is already rolling in putting the bricks in the foundation of the country’s emerging cannabis industry. 

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