You’d imagine that a bunch of young people planting saplings in public spaces on World Environment Day would be seen as a noble act if also a bit tokenistic. But after having done exactly that, cops are on the hunt for these people in the village of Kandachira in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The reason? The greens they were planting were actually illicit cannabis plants.
The incident occured on June 5, which is World Environment Day. Reports say that a passer-by spotted a group of young men planting a couple of cannabis saplings by the roadside in Kandachira. When he confronted them, the boys allegedly told him that they loved the plants and to let them be so that they could take selfies beside it. But the bystander tipped off the cops instead, who later found two saplings measuring 60 and 30 centimetres. They are still tracking down the boys who were said to be behind the act.
“It seems certain gangs are trying out new methods as due to lockdown, they are unable to travel to other places to smuggle the stuff,” assistant excise commissioner B Suresh told The New Indian Express.
On the same day, authorities also received another tip-off about weed saplings under a bridge in a neighbouring village but they did not find them when they got there. However, the cops suggested there were signs that cannabis was planted there earlier.
In India, it’s illegal to cultivate or consume marijuana except in certain cases. Cops have arrested people for growing marijuana plants in their homes and terraces — a criminal offence under The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 that can get you behind the bars for up to ten years and fined up to Rs 1 lakh ($1,372.90).
But the plant thrives in the wild, especially in northern India where stunning mountainous terrain is dotted with wildly proliferating cannabis fields. In some communities in the Himalayas, dishes made from hemp seeds hold a strong cultural value too.
Hemp can be cultivated in certain parts of the country for industrial purposes. In 2017, the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand legalised hemp cultivation for industrial purposes as long as its THC levels range between 0.3 to 1.5 percent. Hemp production in India could further help boost India’s agriculture sector due to its high yield and demand. Another north Indian state, Himachal Pradesh – famous for its “mallana cream” hash – is also moving towards legalising commercial cultivation of the plant for non-recreational uses.