Activists search for legal marijuana in former hippie paradise Nepal | Way of life

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Widely available marijuana once drew thousands of hippies to Nepal, where its use was not only accepted but rooted in both culture and religion.

But the country followed other nations in banning marijuana in the late 1970s and chased away the hippies who came by bus from Europe and the United States.

Half a century later, campaigners are seeking to re-legalize the cultivation, use and export of marijuana as more countries allow its medicinal and recreational use.

Supporters have introduced a bill in parliament that would legalize marijuana, although debate has been delayed by continued feuds between political parties for power.

“We demand the legalization of marijuana in Nepal first for medical purposes for patients who die,” said Rajiv Kafle, a campaign leader, as he retired from “Hippie Hill” in the mountains surrounding the capital, Kathmandu. .

Kafle, who is living with HIV, said the marijuana helped him cope with pain and kept him away from alcohol and other drugs.

The use of marijuana is widely accepted in Nepal. It was cultivated freely and attracted Western hippies in the 1960s and 1970s. However, pressure from Western governments pushed Nepal to pass laws making marijuana and other narcotics illegal.

Some portraits of the most revered Hindu god, Shiva, show him smoking marijuana. Hindu devotees and holy men are often seen smoking in temples.

Marijuana plants often grow wild in villages, but police sometimes destroy plants grown on farms for sale.

It is not difficult to buy marijuana in cities, where there are thousands of users.

“You can see everyone in Nepal smoking from young children to the elderly,” said Polish tourist Lukasz Walendziak.

Kafle and a retired colleague were arrested last month by police and released on bail, but face drug distribution charges.

Under the law, anyone who possesses marijuana for personal use can be jailed for up to one month, but the distribution and sale is punishable by up to 10 years in jail depending on the amount. of seized marijuana.

Kafle said legalizing marijuana could benefit the country’s economy by attracting tourists, adding that it was the arrival of hippies that brought tourists to Nepal.

“With our low cost of production and the competitive advantage we have in the global cannabis market, we will surely win and it will change the country,” he said.

Activists have convinced some politicians of the benefits of legalizing marijuana.

Health Minister Birod Khatiwada, a powerful member of the governing coalition, lobbied for the bill and registered for a debate in parliament on the issue. He said about 9,000 people are currently in jail on marijuana-related charges.

“I’m trying to make it a campaign and a problem in parliament because many countries, including the most powerful and developed countries, have allowed the use of marijuana,” Khatiwada said.

“The new law would ensure that the profits do not go to an industrialist or a small group of entrepreneurs, but rather to poor farmers who use their small plots of land to cultivate them,” he said.

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