nepals-parliament-debates-legalizingcannabis

Nepal’s parliament is debating cannabis reform. Even more interestingly, they are also considering cultivation as a way of curbing the harm done to the local population by the importation of distilled spirits. Namely, proceed with cultivation of cannabis and ban imported alcohol.

This is also the first time this specific discussion – alcohol vs. cannabis – has arisen in a national state legislature discussion about legalization quite like this anywhere in the world.

Specifically, instead of “legalize and tax” like alcohol – the mantra of many early American states like Colorado and Washington State, Nepal at least, is taking a directly different approach. Literally to accept cannabis as a drug and recreational substance while moving people away from distilled alcohol. And further doing so specifically as an act of public safety.

Western European nations if not North American ones, take note.

However, this is also a trend that is already showing up in the United States if not Canada all by itself. It is absolutely why the big beer and alcohol companies have invested early and big in this business.

Nepalese politicians clearly seem to want to make a different kind of statement right from the get go. Including potentially banning any cannabis company or funding that is directly tied to alcohol sales – or in the more likely inverse, giving a market alternative to global brands like Constellation. North American brands will sell well in a tourist market specifically there for outdoor sports, spiritual rejuvenation, or a bit of both.

Background on Nepal

Image: Gavin Yeates, Flickr

Chances are you know about as much about Nepal as, well, most people do. It is a small, relatively open country on the edge of a much larger Tibet. Nepal and Tibet literally meet at the Himalayas and share Mount Everest. Tibet being the land of the exiled Dalai Lama and the site of that movie with Brad Pitt.

Nepal is also mostly Hindu, although there is a wide smattering of religious belief in the country that includes Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism. And unlike Tibet, Nepal can be reached with a simple tourist visa.

It is for this very reason that such debates in the Nepalese parliament have taken on such an interesting geopolitical tint.

A Quick History of Cannabis and Nepal

Just like other countries touching the Himalayas, cannabis is hardly a “new” development. Indeed, this region of the world is likely to be home to many intriguing indigenous cannabis species – including of the intriguing “purple” kind. For those without a degree in cannabis cultivation, purple coloured cannabis, particularly in the wild, comes from areas that are cold at night – see Hindu Kush, albeit from Afghanistan.

Like other countries subjected to geopolitical forces of the early 1970s, the country was also forced to abandon its cannabis cultivation as part of the Cold War and War on Drugs that targeted this part of the world. Politicians are now calling for that to end.

Beyond tourism however, and local economic development (almost 50% of the economy is still subsistence farming), cannabis is deeply interwoven into local tradition and religion.

February 21 is known as the “Night of Shiva” – where millions of Hindus make religious pilgrimages to holy sites in the highest mountains in the world. Shiva is one of the three gods in the Hindu triumvirate.

Brahma is the creator of the universe. Vishnu is the preserver of it. Shiva, however is the destroyer of the universe in order to recreate it.

Coming as it does a month before the spring equinox, the ritual to Hindus is not one of violence but rather one of the rebirth of spring and renewal just around the corner. It makes sense that cannabis would be associated with the same.

In Nepal, in other words, there is a political and economic turning of the wheel for the new decade that is also spiritually motivated at least, by ancient and traditional Nepalese traditions that are quite literally, as old as time.

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