12 May, 2021

Hankering For Hemp

The vales of Himachal Pradesh are flocked by seekers of drugs. The state plans to counter this blight by legalising the use of the non-narcotic form of cannabis with wide uses in medicine, industry and craft.

Tradition at work
Himachali villagers use hemp fibre to make bags, slippers, ropes, bags and mats
Photographs by Akshita Sharma
Hankering For Hemp

The slim, sharp leaves with serrated edges, and their opiate offspring, have a sly cachet around the world—symbol of counterculture and ‘free love’, or cool accessory of safely wannabe radicalism, best taken with a T-shirt depicting a beret- and beard-wearing revolutionary. In the Himachal Pradesh resort of Kullu, the dizzying variety of byproducts—cannabis, marijuana, hashish and hemp—is both common currency and, for most frequenters of this ‘little Amsterdam’, the town’s raison d’être. Indeed, café owners and the peddlers who skulk about them are charmingly blasé about the narcotics trade. It’s here, too, in the Parvati Valley, that the (in)famous Malana cream—the choicest hashish, say connoisseurs—is produced. Illegal cultivation of cannabis is a hard reality in the inaccessible mountain valleys of the area—and a major cause of worry for state agencies, especially the police.

There have been various proposals to liberate picturesque and tourist-­friendly Kullu from the...

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