The Village Where Cannabis is the Only Livelihood

Article by Rishabh R Jain, Independant

 

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Nestled high in the higher reaches of the lush Kullu Valley, Malana used to be a four-day hike from the nearest road. Its laws, tradition says, were laid down by the village god Jamlu. People elected their own parliament and disputes were settled in their own court. Villagers would run in terror if an outsider showed up.

But Malana is hidden no more. For centuries, the villagers have been growing the plant that has made Malana one of the world’s top stoner destinations, and a battleground —at least symbolically — for India’s haphazard fight against “charas,” the black and sticky hashish that has made the village famous.

In 1985, the Indian government gave in to international pressure and banned the production and consumption of cannabis. Possession of a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of charas — a THC-rich extract derived from rubbing out the resin from freshly cut marijuana buds — is punishable by a minimum 10 years’ imprisonment.

In the sleepy mountainous states of North India, marijuana has grown indigenously for hundreds of years. Local lawmakers and officials say the plant is part of their tradition and empathize with people in steep, remote villages who consider cannabis the only cash crop they can grow in harsh weather and geographic conditions.

Maheshwar Singh, a local lawmaker and the descendent head of the royal family of Kullu, said a look at the old tax books shows that the plant was legally cultivated and sold for decades before India’s drug law.

“It was a multipurpose plant for these people,” said the burly, cheerful 67-year-old, pointing out the local usage of hemp fibers in making ropes and traditional “pula” slippers that continue to be the only footwear allowed for pilgrimages.

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