South Asia: Indian State Government Sells Cannabis 3/24/06

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The government of the Indian state of Punjab is in the wholesale cannabis business, the Times of India reported Monday. The state government sells bhang, an intoxicating preparation made from the leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant, known locally as "sukha."

The Times reported that next week, the state's Excise Department, which is responsible for allocating liquor licenses, will also allocate a wholesale "vend" of bhang in Hoshiapur district. The state government has set a price of about $7,000 US to a New Delhi vendor, a senior department official told the newspaper.

"We supply the bhang to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and certain other states in the country," the bhang vendor told The Tribune on the phone from Delhi. "We have set up a huge infrastructure, including a cleansing system, to collect bhang from hemp plants in the Hoshiarpur belt and to supply it to MP, Rajasthan and other areas in the country", he added.

Cannabis is generally prohibited in most Indian states, but is commonly used in religious ceremonies such as the Holi festival in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and other states. It is also used for religious purposes in the Punjab. On the other hand, the Indian government's Narcotics Control Bureau has uprooted large tracts of marijuana plants in Kulu and Manali, where they are a favorite of foreign tourists, and has filed criminal charges against those found growing the herb illegally.

No word yet from the UN's International Narcotics Control Board.

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Issue #428 -- 3/24/06

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