Marijuana cultivation is still an attraction for farmers in many places across Dhankuta for want of an effective strategy of the local governments to wean marijuana farmers from cultivating the contraband.

Marijuana cultivation is mainly done in Sahidbhumi, Sangurigadhi and Chaubise rural municipalities and Pakhribas Municipality.

The places are also suitable for crops and fruits cultivation and animal husbandry, but the local levels concerned haven't brought any incentives to the farmers.

Shahidbhumi, for example, is said to be one of the best places in entire Asia for orange and vegetable farming. Similarly, the other aforementioned places also have potential for animal husbandry, agriculture and horticulture, but the farmers are not interested.

Some also say the support of political leaders is another reason farmers are embracing marijuana cultivation.

A farmer of Shahudbhumi Rural Municipality said he returned to marijuana cultivation after four years. "I took up alternative farming for 3 to 4 years, but couldn't earn as much as I earned from marijuana cultivation, so I returned to marijuana farming knowing that cultivating the contraband was illegal and may lead to punishment," said the farmer, adding that with many people calling for legalisation of marijuana farming by formulating the required law, more people were encouraged. "As there is a lot of money in growing marijuana, farmers can hardly resist," he explained.

Shahidbhumi's social activist Balaram Rai accused the governments of failing to encourage farmers to take up alternative farming.

"As marijuana fetches them a lot of money, more than the cultivation of any other crops, farmers are ready to grow marijuana despite knowing that this is illegal," he said, adding that many people in the hinterlands were still farming marijuana.

According to records, police have this year destroyed marijuana cultivated in 161 ropani of land at different places. "While 200 kg of marijuana was destroyed, we have also arrested three persons in connection with smuggling this contraband and initiated cases against them," said District Police Office DSP Dipak Kumar Raya.

The Narcotic Control Act 2033 bans marijuana farming and smuggling.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.