State-announced ban on marijuana ineffective

- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

Mar 3, 2019-

Although the Pashupati Area Development Trust has announced to strictly ban illegal trade and consumption of marijuana for commoners during the Mahashivaratri festival, the ban is not being effectively followed.

The trust, in association with Nepal Police and other stakeholders, had said it would strictly enforce a ban on marijuana consumption and trade.

Smoking marijuana has become a norm of sorts for many commoners who visit the Pashupati temple on the day of Mahashivaratri, an annual festival celebrated to honour Lord Shiva, which will be observed this year on Monday. The trust on Friday announced that it has completed all the preparations for the festival.

 The trust had declared Pashupati area a marijuana-free zone last year in January, but its implementation has not been effective. “There is no harm in smoking marijuana. It’s Shivaji’s prasad. We are sadhus, we share whatever we consume, so if bhakts come and ask for a puff of it, I don’t mind giving.” said Gopal Dash, 60, a sage who came from Amarkantak of Madhya Pradesh in India. “I don’t sell it though.”

Around 3,000 sadhus have already arrived from different parts of the country and from India for the festival, according to the Pashupati Area Development Trust. The trust estimates that over 5,000 sadhus will arrive in Kathmandu to mark the festival.  

Until 1995, the trust used to distribute marijuana to the sadhus who visited the Pashupati temple during the Mahashivaratri festival, but it stopped the practice after sadhus started distributing—and even selling—it to visitors.   

Pradeep Dhakal, member secretary of the trust, said only sadhus are allowed to smoke weed. “We have kept strong surveillance to check marijuana trade and consumption,” he said. But when the Post visited the temple area on Saturday, it found sadhus with their ash-smeared faces were summoning visitors “to buy” marijuana. And some youths were found sharing puffs of marijuana.

“We have already deployed 15 police personnel in civvies and from Sunday onwards we will be deploying around 100 of them,” said SSP Uttam Raj Subedi, spokesperson for Nepal Police.

As part of the security arrangement for the festival, over 6,000 security personnel will be deployed—4,000 from Nepal Police and 2,000 from the Armed Police Force—during the festival, police said. Besides that, 100 personnel from the Central Investigation Bureau and 2,500 volunteers from different organisations will be present on Monday from early morning at the Pashupati area to manage the festival.

The law states that anyone caught in possession of marijuana are punishable under Narcotic Drugs (control) Act 1976. The act states that anyone who consumes cannabis/marijuana shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term up to one month or with a fine up to Rs2,000. Marijuana is banned in Nepal since 1976. “We booked 30 people, including a few sadhus for their involvement in trade of marijuana on a small scale in the past one week, but they were released after interrogation,” said Sunil Malla, deputy superintendent of police at Metropolitan Police Circle, Gaushala.

Published: 03-03-2019 09:13

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