New legislation to legalize cannabis is now underway in Nepal – the rooftop of the world
The country at the “top of the world” is now moving to relegalize cannabis. The plant has been illegal here since 1976 thanks to pressure from the United States. Before that, the country had a long history with cannabis.
During the 1960s, the drug was sold openly on “Freak Street.” Before this, Nepalese citizens used ganja for centuries as both a medical drug and a holy offering for Hindu gods.
Recent Efforts to Forward Legalization
There have been two serious efforts to relegalize cannabis – the first as a motion filed by the Communist Party in Parliament in 2020 and the second, a formal legalization bill, introduced in 2021. A change of government during Covid has slowed down progress, but it is clearly picking up again as the world re-opens post-Covid.
The prevailing attitude amongst lawmakers is that now that cannabis is being legalized by western countries, including the US, there is no reason to continue with a ban that bankrupted many farmers.
Medical cannabis is legal here – however, there is no framework for therapeutic use. The government still enforces a ban on both consumption and sales.
Enforcement, however, is already patchy.
A Boon for the Tourist Economy
The country is known as “the ceiling of the world” – possessing 8 of the world’s tallest 10 mountains. For this reason, tourism has become the country’s main source of revenue and foreign income.
In 2015, this was badly shaken by a series of earthquakes that year. Five years later, the entire sector collapsed completely thanks to Covid.
Making cannabis legal again will create not only jobs in cultivation but help shore up the revival of the tourist industry here.
A Domino for Cannabis Reform in Asia
One of the other interesting aspects of Nepal’s reform may be that cannabis will become more popular with its Asian visitors. Over half of all foreign tourists to the country are Asian.
Given the slow pace of reform in other countries (only Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand have formal cannabis programs or have enacted at least medical reform), the ability to sample cannabis while on vacation may also allow the seeds of reform to travel far from Nepal, and to countries who have so far been slow to implement change.
This could very well include India, where the question of formal reform has repeatedly stalled. It could also include China, the world’s largest producer of hemp but where both possession and consumption still carry heavy penalties.