Malana Cream, Himachal’s unique cannabis product
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The Narcotics Control Bureau in Mumbai claimed to have seized the contraband ‘Malana Cream’ from a person linked to actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
- It is the charas or hash or hashish which comes from the Malana Valley in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
- Charas, called bhang in Himachal, is the resin obtained from a species or strain of the cannabis plant (botanical classification of cannabis is disputed), which grows naturally in the valley and is also cultivated illegally.
- The valley has a single village, Malana, and the hash resin produced there is generally more ‘creamy’, or clay-like, as compared to that produced in other parts of the state.
- The cannabis plant has a number of chemical compounds called cannabinoids, among which tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive constituent which produces the high sensation.
- Strains of the plant with low levels of THC are used for industrial and non-drug purposes such as making ropes, paper, textiles etc.
- Plants with a high level of another cannabinoid called CBD (cannabidiol) are used for medicinal purposes.
- A high proportion of THC in the plant extract is required for recreational drug use and Malana Cream is believed to be particularly rich in THC, making it more potent. Resin extracted from the plant, generally by rubbing using hands, is also concentrated further to obtain the more potent hash oil.
- In addition, charas from Malana has a distinct set of turpenes, aromatic compounds associated with flavour and other characteristics.
- These characteristics are the result of unique climatic conditions of the valley.
How is it produced so widely if it is illegal?
- Malana is a remote village which remained isolated from other habitations in the area for centuries and developed its own distinct culture.
- A few decades ago, however, Malana emerged on the global map with the emergence of the counterculture movement in western countries, and started attracting users of psychedelic drugs from all parts of the world.
- Charas was banned in India in 1986 under the NDPS Act, but the plant was considered an important crop in Kullu, used for a variety of other purposes such as making footwear.
- With greater road connectivity, Malana and its neighbouring Parvati Valley became notorious for ‘drug tourism’, with domestic as well as foreign tourists thronging to the area lured by the easy availability of drugs as well as picturesque treks.
- Those involved in the lucrative trade move their fields further uphill or to remoter parts of the mountains when this happens. Also, the plant grows naturally in the area, so it cannot be eliminated altogether.
- The illegality of cannabis has made it a contentious issue in Himachal, since it has a certain cultural acceptance in the state.
- A petition to allow non-narcotic use of the plant like in some other states is pending in the state high court, and several legislators are supportive of it.
- Malana currently has a population of 2,350, and is located at an altitude of 2,650 metres above sea level. It has been “a self-contained democratic society for centuries”, according to the Himachal government.
- Besides the Malana cream, it also attracts visitors due to its age-old traditions, scenic beauty, popular treks, a distinct culture and myths and legends associated with the inhabitants.