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Bhutan and Its Fields of Dreams

August 09, 2018

One normally associates Bhutan as being a mountainous Himalayan Buddhist kingdom with "Gross National Happiness" as its measure of prosperity. However, few recognize that Bhutan has a highly prized plant growing as wild as a weed and this "weed" is scientifically known as cannabis. In fact, marijuana is considered a pest and often fed to livestock which improves the happiness index of those creatures though the cattle snooze a bit more than normal and the hogs eat more grain and put on considerable weight. Accordingly, Bhutanese school children are often asked to eradicate the pest around their schools which likely finds its way to livestock feed.

The Bhutanese authorities are very clear that drugs are illegal despite the fact there seems to be little interest on the part of the people. When one leaves the capital of Thimphu to venture out on tortuous, narrow drives through the Himalayan mountains, there are clear signs pointing out the criminality of drug purchases and sales.

It is interesting that the police box is situated just to the left of the prayer wheel which many travelers spin to transmit mantras before they venture out on these dangerous roads.

One does not have to travel far from Thimphu toward the airport in Paro to reach a roadside rest stop which has marijuana growing wild in front of it.

A closer, personal observation of the plant indicates that the stress of growing in a harsh environment has increased the potency of the THC content.

It is very difficult to imagine the number of people that would offer to cut your "grass" most anywhere if your yard looked like this one in Thimphu.

Cannabis is believed to have established itself in Bhutan some 11,000 years ago where it took hold naturally. There has been very little connection between the Bhutanese and the plant until the introduction of modern communication in the 21st century that highlighted the usage in other parts of the world. For a country that banned tobacco sales in 2010, smoking the prevalent weed is a bit out of context. On the other hand, there is some indication that younger Bhutanese may be giving it try.

The indigenous Bhutanese biotype is high in cannabinoids to which a quick crush of a local bud can readily confirm. Therefore, it has become a popular hybrid with breeders in Amsterdam marketing it under the name of Thimphu. Nonetheless, the Buddhist principles followed by most Bhutanese frown upon intoxication and addiction in most any form. Accordingly, it is unlikely that marijuana will play any meaningful role in the pursuit of happiness by these people.

It is also quite clear that any cannabis eradication program would be tremendously difficult given the presence of the weed throughout the country as many have learned relative to the supply of narcotics in general. These concepts underscore the difficulty of drug supply interdiction in favor of education rather than criminalization to eliminate the demand. There is a Bhutanese saying that "happiness comes from mental freedom."

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