Weed is a Weed in Bhutan

By Benjie Cooper

IG: @nuglifenews

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There are many names that people use when referring to the cannabis plant. Somewhere near the top of the long list of slang terms is the basic, no-frills moniker: weed. While it’s more of a pet name than anything for most people, the title takes on greater significance in the Asian kingdom of Bhutan where cannabis is widely regarded as a weed. Nestled deep in the Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan has a population of 700,000-800,000 residents and an overabundance of cannabis plants that pepper the diverse landscape.

Cannabis is illegal in Bhutan, but it is so prolific in the country that it is treated as a pest and portions of it tend to be fed to livestock. While some plants may be found growing in gardens, the majority of them can be seen sprouting in the wild from patches by the side of the road or out of cracks in the sidewalk. The official state religion of Bhutan is Mahayana Buddhism which discourages its followers from intoxicant use. As a result, cannabis use is not socially acceptable throughout most of the country. Visitors do account for a portion of the cannabis consumption in Bhutan, but tourism has been tightly controlled in the past to limit contact with the outside world. In the past few years, more people have been allowed to visit Bhutan as part of a governmental effort to make the country a high-value destination. A daily fee of $250 includes touring and hotel accommodations for visitors. The indigenous, illegal, high-THC cannabis is not included in the fee, and its procurement and use are up to personal discretion.

Knowledge of traditional cannabis use in the country is somewhat limited as most of the nation’s historical records were destroyed in 1827 by a fire that decimated the capital city of Punakha. It is known, though, that Bhutanese archers have traditionally fashioned their bows from the cannabis plant. Even though other modern materials that are available for bow construction, some Bhutanese archers still prefer to use bows made from cannabis, citing their accuracy. The government lists cannabis as a fiber of economic importance, but its textile use is limited. While some rural people still use it for rope, netting, and cloth, the Himalayan nettle is the predominantly used fiber in the country.

Much of the cannabis growing is of the Thimpu variety, a tall and slender type with a rich, earthy, sweet-sour flavor. Originally thought to be a South Asian sativa, botanists now tend to agree that it is a subtype of C. sativa sp. indica. While most of the plants grow in the wild in Bhutan, some cultivation does exist in the country. During harvest season, there is an abundance of hand rolled hashish that can be acquired.

The face and role of cannabis on the global stage are ever-changing. With the wave of medical and recreational cannabis legalization that is sweeping over countries worldwide, perhaps we will see the little nation of Bhutan join in. Though their Buddhist government has traditionally held an isolationist stance, maybe their expansion of local tourism in recent years will facilitate a modernization of the cannabis policies as well. Until laws are changed in the country, visiting tourists wishing to sample some Bhutanese cannabis are advised to use discretion.