Nepal | October 22, 2020

Bill to legalise marijuana cultivation and sale registered

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Marijuana can be used in the domestic market for producing pharmaceutical drugs

Kathmandu, March 2

The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker and former minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Sher Bahadur Tamang today registered a private bill demanding commercial cultivation of marijuana and cannabis for medicinal purposes.

All kinds of sale, cultivation and consumption of marijuana is legally banned in the country as per the existing Narcotic Drugs (Control) Act 1976, calling marijuana or cannabis a ‘hallucinating drug.’

The act states that medicinal cannabis/ marijuana is a ‘Narcotic Drug’. Therefore, all products made of marijuana are considered contraband.

The bill registered today has the provision that Nepali farmers, who have their own land, should be given licence to cultivate marijuana. Any Nepali citizen, who does not own land but wants to cultivate marijuana for commercial purpose, should take special permit from the government ‘board’ envisioned in the bill. As per the bill, farmers will be allowed to export the most potent part of the marijuana plant that contains the psychoactive component called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Lawmaker Tamang, who registered the bill after researching in the area for months, said that the bill had provision allowing farmers to export marijuana to all those countries where sale/purchase of marijuana is legal.

Farmers can also sell marijuana to patients on the basis of the prescription from Nepal Medical Council registered doctors in the domestic market. Likewise, marijuana can also be sold to pharmaceuticals for manufacturing drugs, Tamang said quoting the bill.

Taking about the usefulness of the plant, Tamang said that farmers could sell the seeds of marijuana plant for extracting oil. The leaves and branches can also be used in garment industries, the bill states. The bill provisions that the THC level of such commercial goods produced from marijuana plants should not exceed 0.2 per cent. However, there is no limitation for THC percentage for other purposes. Lawmaker Tamang said, “Farmer will reap more benefits if their marijuana plants have high percentage of THC, so we will encourage farmers to produce as much potent marijuana as they can.”

Activist Rajeev Kafle, who supported lawmaker Tamang in drafting the bill, said that average potent marijuana in Nepal has THC level from nine to 12 per cent. But, if cultivated properly and scientifically, marijuana with 20 to 22 per cent THC level can be produced in the country.

“There is high demand of marijuana with high THC level in foreign countries that have legalised consumption of marijuana both medically as well as for recreational purpose,” he added.

Similarly, Dr Ratna Thapa, a researcher of marijuana plant in the country, said marijuana could be largely used in the domestic market for production of various pharmaceutical drugs.

Lawmaker Tamang said the bill would not allow rampant production and sale as the government would ask farmers to submit all records of their marijuana saplings and provide detailed report of marijuana cultivation.

“Routine inspection and monitoring of the land used for marijuana cultivation will be carried out by government officials to prevent misuse and smuggling,” Tamang said.

The bill also envisions a 14-member board that comprises high-level government officials from various government bodies including, the Ministry of Health and Population, Ministry of Home Affairs, Nepal Police and other security agencies. “The board will be the apex body that will regulate production and export of cannabis, which I believe will drastically boost the economic condition of farmers in the country,” lawmaker Tamang said.

Spokesperson for Narcotics Control Bureau of Nepal Police Superintendent of Police Birendra Kumar Bashyal said, “We as law enforcement agency will not suggest the government to endorse such a bill as legalising marijuana can promote violence in the country.”

He, however, said that if the government endorsed the bill, the police would be obliged to act as per the law.

A version of this article appears in print on March 03, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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