This weed around the world

Illustration by Aaron Ughoc

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.


  1. “early methods of extracting the oils from the cannabis plant by puncturing the stem and collecting the fluids”

    Are you nuts?

  2. Unsure of the question. Are you aware that this is how oils are extracted from plants for medical purposes, or even in poisons? Could you rephrase the question so that I might better address it?

  3. The oils are extracted from the buds. Not the stem. Also, currently no where in Thailand is cannabis legal. Suggesting that Phuket differs from other parts of the country is dangerously wrong. Perhaps a bit more research was needed.

  4. This was intended as a historical survey. It is both spatial and temporal. If you actually read the section regarding Phuket, it is talking about the Vietnam War. So many years ago. And yes, many countries around the world are engaged in similar issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana use to some extent. This is brief article that only could lend minimal attention to this robust movement.

    Also yes, there is more than one type of oil extracted from the plant. I am fully aware of extraction of hash and shatter and whatever other oils with the use of other agents (i.e. Butane) – this article is referencing none of that. The “stem” of marijuana plants extends into each bud. That’s how it is attached. This isn’t a scientific exposé on marijuana. If you need more details, I would not look solely to the PSU vanguard. These articles are broad and meant to be general. Your criticism is appreciated, but misplaced.


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