Weed has become ever-present in the daily lives of Portlandians, and many states have relaxed restrictions or legalized recreational pot use. Advocates are fighting for the national legalization of marijuana in efforts to decriminalize the currently labeled Schedule I drug. Does that make the United States a stoner nation?
This question is not so easy to answer, as even in liberal states like Oregon the vote to legalize recreational pot was a close call, pointing to the fact that many citizens do not approve of its legality.
Compared to the U.S., how does one categorize the countries around the world that have appeared to support weed use?
It is unclear how ordinary day-to-day people in countries like Thailand, India, and Nepal produce or utilize marijuana because of skewed perceptions based on certain areas and stereotypes that label these countries as pro-pot.
If you head over to Phuket, Thailand, where marijuana is supposedly legal but still warrants harassment from the local police force, you will likely find that the most popular form of marijuana sold there is in the form of Thai sticks.
As many a hemp-lover has discovered, people in Thailand have culturally used the fibrous plant to make clothing and other materials rather than simply consuming it to get high. Interestingly, muay thai fighters have historically utilized marijuana fibers to wrap and protect their fists during fights.
However, according to sources on the topic, the presence of U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, and the exposure of the soldiers to recreational marijuana use, urged the prosecution of those who decided to engage in pot smoking activities.
In India, where marijuana has been used since ancient history, pot use is still popular. Sometimes it takes a different form, and the cultural implications of its effects and uses vary, but marijuana has proven to be present in early texts and literature referring to the plant.
Perhaps this is why it is no surprise that in March 2015, Tathagata Satpathy, a major parliamentary leader in India, admitted to smoking weed on several occasions and argued for its re-legalization in India.
Weed is still illegal in Nepal, but that doesn’t change its long history with pot use and production. In a historical account of a man’s trip through Nepal during the early 19th century, Francis Hamilton noted that Cannabis sativa plants grew quite literally like weeds throughout the area. In fact, this account describes some early methods of extracting the oils from the cannabis plant by puncturing the stem and collecting the fluids, which seems to point to the history of extracts and concentrates that are so popular in dispensaries today.
However, the U.S. again intervened in this open marijuana use when travelers during the ’60s and ’70s were using the country as a haven for pot use. As the story goes, pressure from the U.S. led to a 1973 law making marijuana production and use illegal there.
This little tour of attitudes and practices around the world involving weed only proves that the U.S. is not too different from our foreign counterparts. Some people like to smoke weed and think it is ridiculous that people have gone to jail and even prison over it. Others feel it is a gateway drug and dangerous to legalize for the sake of communities as a whole, despite a lack of scientific evidence showing such connections.
In many countries, especially those that have had excessive contact with the U.S., the precedent has been set that marijuana should be illegal. But there is always an undercurrent of black market activity that exploits this profitable plant and benefits from its production, whether you are in the U.S. or across the globe.