MT View: It’s time to legalize marijuana in Nepal

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Recently ruling party lawmakers have proposed legalizing marijuana in Nepal, where the hippie contingent liked to congregate for use of marijuana in the 1960s when hippie’s zeitgeist was zippy in Nepal. If this push to legalize pot succeeds then new job opportunities will be created and undoubtedly brings money through taxation and tourism.

The hippy movement fired up in the 1960s, when sandaled beatniks, disdaining Western trapping for a life of self-reflection, made their way to Nepal. After years as the capital of the international hippie circuit, Nepal made the use of marijuana illegal in 1976 with the Narcotic Drugs Control Act under pressure from the U.S government, the World Health Organization, and some people from Nepal. 

But now, forty-six members of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal filed the proposal in Parliament that seeks to rescind a 50-year embargo on the sale, cultivation, and consumption of marijuana. Birodh Khatiwada, a lawmaker of the Communist Party, filed the proposal in Parliament for discussion. He urged that Nepal’s mountainous hilly areas are pertinent for the crop and allowing farmers to grow would help the needy.

Another lawmaker of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal and former minister for law and justice, Sher Bahadur Tamang also tabled a private bill paving a way for marijuana legalization. The bill spurs farmers to engage in the commercial cultivation of marijuana for medical use. The proposed bill envisions forming a Marijuana Board consisting of 14 members, led by the health secretary to reign over the sale and cultivation of marijuana. It also proposes a regulatory body at the local level, headed by the chairman of the District Coordination Committee. Producers will be able to sell it to the companies as directed by the board.

People are still cultivating marijuana although it is illegal. Raids by police continue to uncover illicit marijuana farms. Cannabis grows in almost every part of Nepal. Marijuana has been in use since the generation in Nepal. It is freely smoked during Shivaratri, a festival where Lord Shiva is worshipped.  Illegal cultivation serves a steady stream of customers. Illegal markets and cultivation are thriving. Police crush a large amount of cannabis every year. According to the latest report published by Narcotics Control Bureau, police seized 9633.5 kg of cannabis and 2390.8 kg of hashish in a period from mid-December 2019 to mid-October 2019.

Cannabis, which can thrive in dry conditions, is a good fit for Nepal’s climate and ecological zones. A study published in the American Journal of Agriculture Research also states that Nepal can be a fertile land for the cultivation of cannabis since it grows in various climates and temperatures.

Many countries have legalized marijuana but our leaders and policymakers have their heads in the clouds. It’s high time that we accept marijuana into the mainstream. Marijuana not only provides relief to our economy but also can render care to those who suffer from chronic diseases and pain. According to a report published by Grand View Research, the rising use of cannabis for a wide array of ailments such as cancer, pain, mental disorder, and others is expected to advance the economic condition of a country. The legal market for cannabis is expected to reach $146.4 billion by 2025. Legal marijuana has started securing transactions worldwide due to its high demand and increasing legalization of pot in various countries.

The legalization of marijuana brings money, and there is no doubt about it. If this nudge to legalize marijuana succeeds, then this national experiment will change the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the country. Thousands of jobs can be created once the legal marijuana market is set into motion. Legal marijuana could be a big push for state economies and big bucks for the federal government bringing in tourists and much-needed foreign currencies to Nepal.

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