Is Cannabis cultivation legal in Nepal?

        While I was in Hennef, Germany, attending the CannaBusiness ‘98 trade show, the issue was raised to me several times by a few different people, that I was so lucky to be living in a country where it was still legal to grow Cannabis, hemp and marijuana. This came as a surprise to me, because even after living in Nepal for the past 17 years, I had never heard this. During the past five years I have been discussing with the various governments of Nepal the potential benefits for farmers and the country by allowing the growing of industrial Cannabis.
        I would like to state the facts about Nepal and the growing of Cannabis as an industrial hemp fiber and/or seed crop or for hashish production. As the Nepali law is written, (and translated to English) it clearly states that all parts of the Cannabis plant are illegal and that the handling or moving of any part of the plant is punishable by law. Indeed, people are frequently arrested for dealing in hashish. The blanket wording of the Cannabis law results from several causes.
        In the Nepali language there is only one word for the Cannabis plant, ganga.. In English, it is possible to use alternate words for Cannabis such as ‘hemp’ and ‘marijuana’. These more specific terms establish a clear difference in the use of the plant. However, in Nepali you use the word ganga no matter what the plant is used for. Also, the law was put into place in the early 1970s, after some heavy pressure was applied on the Nepali government by Western nations and it resembles the wording of North American and European Cannabis laws. Even now the law is kept in place due to pressure from the same foreign governments, who do not want Nepal or any country to allow this very useful and profitable plant to be grown.
        The law is somewhat relaxed, however, and Nepali hemp material is available from almost all hill regions of the country. It differs from the material that is available from other countries, as it is grown from high-THC plants. Plants are not grown for the fiber, but for the illegal parts of the plant, the leaves and the flowers and of course, what made Nepal famous so many years ago, the resin, which is used to make hashish. After the resin is collected the bark is stripped from the stalks and used for making hemp cloth and other craft items.
        There is also one very important exception to the Cannabis law that is used by a lot of rural people in Nepal. For the farmers of Nepal it is "legal" to grow up to two plants on their property for medicinal use. It is an unwritten law, but no police would bother a farmer who had two plants, no matter what size, growing in their garden, as long as the same farmer had animals. It is understood that the animals may need the medicine if they get upset stomachs. Also some locals use the seed from their "legal" plants to make a potato pickle dish, without fully understanding the reason they eat it, as a necessary high protein addition to their protein poor diets.
        I would like to add that even with the laws as they are, in certain areas of Nepal you will find entire valleys growing Cannabis, ganga, or marijuana, you may call it what you like, but the farmers who harvest this crop, are as concerned with how it grows as any grower in the west. They are after the leaves, flowers and resin for marketable drug products, and the fiber for their traditional dress, which the family members will process in a very labor intensive process. Now, with the interest in material made from Cannabis hemp, the traditional family process is now yielding the family an extra income that was not possible before.
        Even in the capital city, Kathmandu, you will find in the right season wild plants growing almost everywhere, along the sides of the roads, in the compounds of older established buildings, including Government buildings. After all, we must remember that Cannabis is a weed. In almost every field that has not been plowed, you will find the weed growing up to the time the farmer plows it under to add natural fertilizer to the soil. It is still illegal to grow, but it grows freely and nothing will ever stop it.
        In conclusion, you must say that it is still very much illegal to grow Cannabis, (hemp or marijuana) in Nepal, and that every part of the plant is included in this law. However, we can import the hemp sliver, yarn and material from China with no problem. We can also export the same, as well as Nepali-made material from the villages. However, we cannot legally grow it, harvest it, handle it and transport it. So, like many laws dealing with this plant it is completely illogical.

E-mail: darcy@mos.com.np