December 10: At a time when there is a serious debate about the legality of marijuana cultivation in Nepal, experts have recommended the government for ‘controlled legitimacy’ in production and use of the banned substance.
The Policy Research Institute in collaboration with Nepal Health Research Council conducted a study on 'Legalization of Marijuana Cultivation in Nepal: Possibilities and Challenges' and made this recommendation to the government saying that many countries of the world have adopted this policy.
A team of experts including Dr Manita Kusi, Dr Hari Sharma Neupane, Dr Mukunda Raj Kattel, Advocate Hari Prasad Mainali, Prof Rajendra Gyawali, Dr Prerak Regmi, Pushkar Basyal and others researched and prepared the report for the institute. The report has recommended the government to amend the current laws of the Narcotic Drug Control Act, 2033.
The experts recommended developing regulatios, method and structure for the use and trade of marijuana. Although the full legalization of marijuana is not possible at the moment, researchers have indicated in the report that 'controlled legalization' can be followed as other countries have adopted.
The report concluded that it is important to be aware of the "harmful effects" of marijuana products. It is essential to create necessary regulations for its monitoring and to prepare specific methods, structures and human resources to address the social ills caused by its use such as addiction, social violence, etc.
According to the study report, clarity should be maintained about the controlled use of marijuana in the current Narcotic Drugs Control Act. In addition, the study shows that the ambiguity regarding the use of marijuana can be removed if the relevant government agencies create clear regulations and implement them.
The experts have recommended defining marijuana based on its use. The current definition of the Narcotics Drug Control Act makes all varieties of marijuana illegal.
According to this law, as the cultivation and business of marijuana species with less than 0.3 percent tetra-hydro-cannabinol (THC) , whose medicinal and recreational effects are considered insignificant and used for industrial production, is also considered illegal.
The study says that this definition resulted in the closure of industries that processed marijuana.
It is necessary to define marijuana based on the compounds found in marijuana to prevent such a situation in the future. The report suggests that marijuana species with less than 0.3% THC should be allowed for cultivation and business under the name of 'Industrial Cannabis' and those with more than 0.3% THC should be allowed for research and medicinal use with proper regulation according to the principle of 'controlled use'.
Similarly, in the study report, it is recommended to conduct a scientific study about the medicinal aspects of marijuana. Stating that there is not much research on the medicinal properties of cannabis in Nepal, it is also said that the current knowledge based on traditional/Ayurvedic practice is not scientifically agreed upon. It is mentioned in the report that it is necessary to determine the amount of chemical elements found in which type of cannabis and the necessary infrastructure for production of modern laboratory, skilled manpower and quality control, keeping in mind the possibility that Nepali cannabis can be established in the world market as an integral part of pharmaceutical science.
The report suggests promoting scientific hemp cultivation for industrial purposes. According to the study, there is a lack of scientific knowledge about which type of cannabis cultivation is suitable in which climate of Nepal.
In order to fill this gap, it is recommended to carry out necessary studies and research to promote the cultivation of cannabis suitable for the geographical environment and climate, and to orient and train the farmers accordingly.
The study report also suggested promoting evidence-based Ayurvedic medicine. According to the study, there is a long tradition of making cannabis-mixed medicine in the Ayurvedic medical system. Such medicines are used in the treatment of many diseases including indigestion, rheumatism, problems caused by contaminated food (food poisoning). However, there is a lack of reliable (scientific) knowledge about the long-term effects of these and other Ayurvedic medicines, due to which the expected promotion of the Ayurvedic system of medicine, which has a long history and tradition, has not been possible. In order to solve this problem, testing the medicinal properties of cannabis and other plants used in the manufacture of Ayurvedic medicine, identifying the diseases that can be diagnosed and treating them through scientific methods and developing human resources to promote evidence-based Ayurvedic medicine can contribute to human health, the research pointed out.
History of Prohibition in Nepal
In 1961, the United Nations adopted a convention with the proposal that marijuana be listed as a narcotic drug and its production and use should be restricted worldwide. As a member of the United Nations, the government of Nepal banned the cultivation, use and trade of cannabis in Nepal through a declaration in 2030 BS. Three years later, in the year 2033, the government formulated law necessary to implement the declaration. The Narcotic Drugs Control Act, 2033, was amended at various times based on the experience and practice of developed countries.
Although a bill regarding the legalization of marijuana has been registered in the Parliament of Nepal, it has not been able to move forward.