Hindu holy men were joined by fellow devotees and the public last week at the revered temple in Kathmandu. Here, holy men and devotees alike lit up traditional hash pipes (known as a ‘chillum’) as well as joints during the annual Nepal cannabis festival, despite warnings from authorities.
The festival was monitored by hundreds of police officers patrolling the forested area around the Pashupati temple. The open use of cannabis isn’t legal in Nepal, but this didn’t stop the masses from celebrating the Shivaratri Festival. Here cannabis consumption occurs as devotees visit the temples of Hindu God Shiva.
A petition was also recently signed by a group of ruling party lawmakers which is aimed at legalising the cultivation and consumption of cannabis.
“There is a ban on smoking marijuana but at the same time it is a centuries-old tradition, which we have to respect,” said police officer Suman Khadka, adding that no arrests were made. Currently, the use of marijuana is punishable by prison sentences of up to a month for users and 10 years for traffickers.
“There is really no harm in smoking marijuana, it has been proven to have medical use too,” said Bimal Giri, who is a factory worker who bought joints for 50 rupees (R10.41 ) each from a local holy man.
Nepal became famous in the 1960s for cannabis and other narcotics, while hippies travelled to the Himalayan nation. Cannabis was illegally advertised by shops and tea houses, but the plant was fully outlawed in 1976.
It would appear that legal cannabis is on the minds of those in charge in Nepal. Whether it will be for recreational or medical purposes, we will have to see – but it may be safe to say that they too are seeing the economic potential of the plant. It is an amazing sight though as the Nepal cannabis festival continues to thrive as holy men smoke openly amongst police in some sort of unspoken agreement.