April 13, 2024, Saturday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Realising the Ganja value (!)

The Nepal Weekly
September 5, 2023

By Purna N. Ranjitkar

Chairperson of Agriculture, Cooperatives and Natural Resources of Federal Parliament Dr.Arju Rana Deuba had said that legal cultivation of Ganja has been a need to discuss among the stakeholders and instruct the Government to take needful actions. She was speaking recently at the meeting of the committee on the programmes for the coming year.  

Earlier, Finance Minister Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat unveiling the budget for the forthcoming fiscal year 2080/81, stated the government will study the prospect of marijuana farming for medicinal purposes. The announcement took place during a joint session of the National Assembly and House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament.

Thus, Ganja has been brought into Nepal’s Federal Parliament again as an issue.

In March, 2020, a private bill was registered at the House of Representatives seeking the legalisation of marijuana, primarily for medical use and for export.

The private bill registered by Sher Bahadur Tamang, then lawmaker and former minister for law and justice, envisions permitting licenced farmers to cultivate and sell cannabis.

Around 50 Lawmakers had signed the proposal lodged to deal in the House of Representatives. This had illegal status since 1973. The US government and world community mounted pressure on prohibiting cultivation, traffic, trade, and made Nepal to formulate laws against Ganja as one of the narcotic products in the said year.

Ganja is known firstly as a strong-smelling plant whose dried leaves can be smoked for a pleasant effect or pain reduction while another way it is described as the most commonly used illicit drug; considered a soft drug, it consists of the dried leaves of the hemp plant; smoked or chewed for euphoric effect.

Old Hindu scriptures believed to be composed thousands year ago describe that Lord Shiva who resides in the Himalayas use Ganja, Bhang, Dhaturo as favourite. The Sadhus who visit Pashupatinath Temple during Shivaratri festival use Ganja freely for their smoking pleasure during their stay. Obviously they use Ganja daily or occasionally.

By this time many parts of USA, Canada other countries have legalised Cannabis which is called Ganja in Nepali keeping in view its medicinal values. Global trading houses and enterprises are investing to produce, process and make profit on it, may be in a well managed manner.

Thus, Ganja banned in Nepal but opened in western countries should be brought into consideration to legalise. Well managed cultivation and processing of Ganja and marketing in the international market can fetch a huge volume of money for the country. As such, time has come for Nepal to revisit to turn it into opportunities of employment and strengthen the economy out of the valuable crop which is used to produce more than 300 different medicines. It is to note that Singhadurbar Baidyakhana, the Nepal government run Aryurved medicine producing unit purchases Ganja from different markets to produce various medicines. 

In the United States, the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose, by way of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under the CSA, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use – thereby prohibiting even medical use of the drug. At the state level, however, policies regarding the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis vary greatly, and in many states conflict significantly with federal law.

The medical use of cannabis is legalised (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states, four out of five permanently inhabited US territories, and the District of Columbia. Fourteen other states have laws that limit THC content, for the purpose of allowing access to products that are rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis.

Cannabis has subject to legal restriction in many countries since the 20th century. Uruguay was the first country to legalise the sale, cultivation and distribution of cannabis. Countries like Netherlands, Jamaica and states of America like Oregon, Alaska and Washington have legalised cannabis and seemed to do fine pulling millions of dollars in tax revenue. In east and Southeast Asia simple possession can carry long jail sentences and sale may lead to life imprisonment or even execution.

As per the reports of 2020, the global legal marijuana market is expected to grow to a $73.6 billion industry by 2027, with the medical marijuana segment accounting for more than 70 percent. The unrefined and unprocessed marijuana market was valued at $9.1 billion in 2019, with more than 88 percent of revenue limited to North America.

Currently around a dozen state of USA have not just legalised medical cannabis, but also its recreational use. Numerous countries across the world. have legalised medical marijuana, with a handful permitting recreational use. Thailand and some other countries are producing cannabis as medicinal raw material while Germany is planning to do the same soon.

The bill on Management and Monitoring of Marijuana is the first law registered by an individual lawmaker since the promulgation of the constitution four years ago. Records at the Parliament Secretariat show that just three private bills have been endorsed by Parliament since the restoration of democracy in 1990.

A private bill, in contrast to a public bill, is a bill introduced by an individual lawmaker rather than the minister. Private bills reflect the concerns of the lawmaker or a political party while public ones reflect government policy.

Thus, controlled or systemised cultivation of Ganja in Nepal may be suggested and must not loose the opportunities. Public support to the movement brought in the Federal Parliament in initiation of then lawmaker Birodh Khatiwada may turn the government to revisit the value of Ganja to consider as a valuable commodity.

Most of the things have good and bad aspects. On the one hand, we cannot discard the medicinal use of cannabis and the possibility that legalization would eliminate illegal trade and associated crime earning millions in tax revenue. While on the other hand we still cannot underestimate the misuse of the drug and its potentiality to get addictive. Moderation in medicinal use and strict restriction in recreational use might be the best alternative.