Nepal’s marijuana ban could soon be up in smoke, as lawmakers mull a return to the liberal drug policies that once made the Himalayan republic a popular pit stop on the overland “hippie trail”.
Half a century ago, thousands of fun-seeking backpackers from around the world made their way to Kathmandu to buy potent hash strains from government-licensed stores on “Freak Street” — a lane named for long-haired and unkempt foreign visitors.
Washington’s global war on drugs, and its accompanying pressure on foreign governments, prompted the closure of the capital’s dispensaries in 1973, along with a cultivation ban that forced farmers to rip up their cannabis plants.
Now, with Western countries easing their own prohibitions on marijuana, the government and legal reform campaigners say it is time to stop criminalising a potent cash crop with centuries-old ties to the country’s culture and religious practices.
– Corruption and smuggling –
“It is not justifiable that a poor country like ours has to treat cannabis as a drug,” Nepal’s Health Minister Birodh Khatiwada told AFP.
“Our people are being punished… and our corruption increases because of smuggling as we follow decisions of developed countries that are now doing as they please.”
Khatiwada sponsored Nepal’s first parliamentary motion advocating an end to the ban in January 2020, and two months later a bill was put to lawmakers seeking partial legalisation.
A change in government has stalled progress since, but in December of that year Nepal backed a successful campaign to have the United Nations reclassify cannabis out of its list of the world’s most harmful drugs.
Nepal’s home ministry has since launched a study into the medicinal properties and export potential of marijuana that is expected to support a revived parliamentary push to end the ban.
“It is a medicine,” said prominent activist Rajiv Kafle, who lives with HIV and began campaigning for legalisation after using the drug to treat his symptoms.
Kafle said ending the ban would be an “important booster” to Nepal’s tourism industry, which is still reeling from the Covid pandemic, and would also benefit Nepalis suffering from chronic illnesses.
While the current law allows for medicinal cannabis, there is no established framework for therapeutic use and the government still enforces a blanket ban on consumption and trafficking.
“So many patients are using it, but they are forced to do it illegally,” Kafle told AFP. “They can get caught anytime.”
Enforcement of the ban is already patchy: tourists visiting Nepal’s backpacker haunts are unlikely to encounter the long arm of the law for lighting up a joint in a Kathmandu back alley.
Authorities also look the other way during an annual festival held to honour the Hindu deity Shiva, the destroyer of evil, who is regularly depicted clasping a chillum pipe used to smoke cannabis.
Ganja smoke wafts around the grounds of Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple each year as holy men gather to celebrate and worshippers fill their own chillums with Shiva’s “gift”.
But elsewhere, penalties are harsh and regularly enforced. Marijuana dealers risk up to 10 years jail time and police seize and destroy thousands of cannabis plants across the country each year.
– ‘Part of our culture’ –
Prohibition interrupted a long tradition of cannabis cultivation in Nepal, where plants grew wild and their stems, leaves and resin were used in food, as clothing fibres or as a component of traditional Ayurvedic medicines.
“The ban destroyed an important income source in this region,” a farmer in western Dang district told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It ignored how it was part of our culture and everyday life, not just… an intoxicant.”
Several Western countries have ended their own bans on marijuana use in recent years, including parts of the United States, which once spearheaded the global campaign to criminalise the drug.
In California, dispensaries sell “Himalayan Gold”, a strain which originated from Nepal and calls to mind the country’s historic associations with weed culture.
A rejuvenated marijuana trade tailored to burgeoning export demand and cashing in on Nepal’s existing “international brand value” could prove highly lucrative, said Barry Bialek, a doctor working at a cannabis research centre at Kathmandu University.
“As a cash crop it can be good locally but also in the global market,” he told AFP. “It can be a leader in the world.”
By Laman Ismayilova
Nowadays the fashion industry is one of the most polluted industries in the world. Only 20 percent of 62 million tonnes of clothing are reused or recycled globally per year.
The Embassy of Sweden in Azerbaijan has launched an exhibition project “Sustainable fashion: the future of textiles” to show how both producers and consumers, minimize undesirable environmental effects of the fashion industry by maximizing repairing, remaking, reusing, and recycling clothing products and their components, Azernews reports.
The project is organized in partnership with the Ganja Executive Authorities, Ganja Regional Culture Department, and the Azerbaijani National Art Museum to celebrate the three decades of the Azerbaijan-Sweden diplomatic relations.
The exhibition is produced by the Swedish Institute together with researchers and fashion experts. It highlights the fashion industry’s major challenges and showcases Swedish solutions and initiatives for a more sustainable future.
The head of the Ganja Regional Department of Culture Vasif Jannatov opened the exhibition with his speech and welcomed Swedish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Christian Kamill and all the participants.
He expressed his gratitude to the Culture Ministry, Ganja Executive Authorities, the Embassy of Sweden in Azerbaijan, and the National Art Museum for their support to hold this exhibition in Ganja.
Vasif Jannatov emphasized the importance of organizing joint projects and events which accelerate the development of bilateral cultural ties.
Deputy Head of the Ganja Public-Political and Humanitarian Department Azar Ibrahimov congratulated on behalf of the head of the Ganja Executive Authorities Niyazi Bayramov and the Swedish Ambassador Christian Kamill for bringing the thematic exhibition to Ganja and expressed his gratitude to all official partners.
Swedish Ambassador Christian Kamill expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome in Ganja. She touched upon a number of events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Sweden-Azerbaijani diplomatic relations held this year.
Next, the project curator, the head of international relations at the National Art Museum, Konul Rafyeva, spoke about the exhibition project “Sustainable fashion: the future of textiles”.
The project dedicated to environmental issues was held for the third time in Azerbaijan.
The exhibition also displays fashion photos taken by Swedish photographer Elisabeth Toll during her visits to Baku, Gabala, and Nakhchivan as well as her photos of Swedish forests.
Swedish photographer Elisabeth Toll was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden.
During a successful career in international photography, she has been focusing mainly on fashion, portraiture, and landscape.
The exhibition . . . . .“Sustainable Fashion: the future of textiles” is open to visitors until July 17, 2022. The entrance is free of charge.
Media partners of the event are Azernews.az, Trend.az, Day.az, Milli.Az.
Azerbaijan was represented at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Azernews reports citing Trend Life.
The delegation included the winners of the Young Lions Azerbaijan 2022 -Namig Bayramov, Nijat Mammadzada, Khayal Mahmudlu, and Khadija Mammadli.
Four winners of the local stage of the competition participated in the festival with the support of the Culture Ministry.
Recall that the winners of Young Lions Azerbaijan 2022 were determined in May this year. They received the right to take part in the big final of Young Lions Competitions 2022, which is an integral part of the Cannes Lions Festival.
This year, this prestigious festival featured world-famous brands, performances, and panel sessions by industry professionals from different countries, including such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Ryan Reynolds, and Patrick Stewart.
The Cannes Lions Festival is considered one of the most prestigious in the advertising industry.
The Young Lions Competition held within the festival is intended for young professionals in the field of advertising. Being held since 1955, the competition is open to creative people under the age of thirty.
Mugham music has deep roots in the history of the culture of the Azerbaijani people.
Renowned as the symbol of national culture, it contains seven main modes – Rast, Shur, Segah, Shushtar, Bayaty-Shiraz, Chahargah, and Humayun.
In 2003, UNESCO recognized mugham as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Azerbaijan’s mugham music has captivated the audience in Germany, Azernews reports.
The concert took place at the Culture Center at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Berlin.
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Germany Ramin Hasanov addressed the event.
The ambassador spoke about the city of Shusha and its special place in Azerbaijan’s culture and history.
The participants in the event were informed about the large-scale restoration work carried out in the territories liberated from the Armenian occupation including the city of Shusha.
He noted that Shusha is the center of Azerbaijani culture and music, the birthplace of many world-famous cultural figures.
Honored Artists Sahib Pashazada (tar), Togrul Asadullayev (kamancha), Kamran Karimov (nagara), and well-known singers Gullu Muradova and Babek Niftaliyev performed wonderful examples of mugham music.
Young Azerbaijani pianist and laureate of international competitions Narmin Najafli delighted the audience with works by Azerbaijani and foreign composers.
The guests of the event also had a chance to take a look at colorful paintings by young artists, and students of the Art School.
The exhibition “My heart is in Karabakh” was met with great interest among art lovers.
The event was co-organized by the Azerbaijani Embassy in Germany and the Arts Council Azerbaijan.
Around 19 art pieces were showcased as part of the exhibition dedicated to the Year of Shusha.
Speaking about the exhibition, the director of the Art School, Sona Guliyeva, said that the young talents worked on the project for several months.
In their paintings, young artists reflected Shusha city in all its beauty.
The exhibition “My Heart in Karabakh” was previously held at the State Philharmonic Hall.
In the near future, the exhibition will be showcased in other countries.
The event was followed by a video presentation about Azerbaijan’s culture and tourism potential.