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Nepal Should Legalize Marijuana

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Thursday marks the annual festival called Shivaratri in Nepal. It is one of the most important pilgrimages for Hindus, and thousands of holy men are arriving in Kathmandu to participate. (See Pious Pilgrims and Stoned Sadhus

The government will feed them, and until a few years ago, there was also an official supply of marijuana and hashish for the sadhus. (Some say that despite denials, the government continues the practice.) The herb is sacred to the deity Shiva, who is honored on Shivaratri, and therefore a sacrament to the worshippers. It's also illegal in Nepal.

Nepal could benefit greatly by legalizing marijuana. If Shiva and his sadhus can take ganja, why not tourists?

shiva

Marijuana's medical benefits are accepted in the West, and legalization is coming to the US. Many countries have decriminalized it, and Uruguay and Ecuador are headed for legalization. Traditionally, no one in Nepal questioned the religious or recreational use of marijuana, but the country banned it in 1973 under international pressure.

Colorado expects to net about $10 million per month from its 30 percent tax on the weed. If Nepal legalized marijuana it could easily earn several hundred million dollars a year from the taxes and from the resulting economic growth. In rural Nepal, cannabis would become an important cash crop. It's easy to grow, so competition would be about quality.

Tourism would boom. Visitors could go trekking and see the fields of cloned plants. Perhaps a bike tour to the hashish processing centers, or a visit to the weekly farmers' market, where the growers and licensed buyers haggle over sacks of buds and bricks of hashish? Tasting tours, hash brownie-enhanced flights to Mount Everest, and coffee shops: The possibilities are endless.

All of that would boost the country's income and contribute to desperately needed development. And the government could resume the age-old practice of keeping Shiva's holy men high.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors. Read more stories by John Child in Kathmandu.

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