Smoking cannabis in India: the thin line between hell and paradise
Come to understand India takes a lifetime. No country in the world looks like the old subcontinent. Cannabis can be both the easiest and most difficult thing to deal with if you do not know their idiosyncrasies in this exotic country.
Everything is completely different there. Let me give a couple of examples. How do you say yes without using your lips? You nod, moving your head from top to bottom. In India you move your head from side to side as if you wanted to say no. Only in this country is possible seeing traffic signals with the words “sleeping while driving is strictly prohibited”. No country compares to it! And when it comes to cannabis, it is the same.
British tried to criminalize it several times. But the results were zero. Indians are very stubborn and when they say no, they really mean it. The same way British conquerors never ever were allowed to buy lands, even though they were ruling the country, the never could avoid cannabis consumption.
Marijuana, know as bhang or ganja or bhang, have been used since…nobody knows when. But it has been part of their spiritual, medical and recreational life for thousands of years.
However, the politicians in the country felt the international pressure to ban the drug. Finally in 1961 they signed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs that declared cannabis illegal. However, politicians knew nobody was going to pay any attention to the subject. What did they do?
They allowed Indian citizens to consume cannabis that was sold in special dispensaries which had their license. These dispensaries are very discreet. They advertize their place with the words “ganja and opium shop” Only there is possible buying ganja legally. But it is for Indian citizens only. Being a westerner you cannot do the same. And buying it from street dealers is completely forbidden and if the police catch a westerner, he will be in big trouble. Even though these places are only for Indians, the owner will sell you whatever you ask for.
Something I recommend is visiting your compatriots in the central prison of every important city, to take them basic items such as medicines, toothpaste or whatever. Listen to their stories and you will be in shock. Some fellows have been given ten years penalty for carrying 10 grams of cannabis. And Indian jails are tremendous!
How can you avoid being arrested for cannabis possession?
Of course you must be very discreet. Buy your cannabis from someone you really trust. If you get caught, there are two possible scenarios. Either you get arrested by regular cops or you can be arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Police. If you get caught by the last ones, you’re screwed! They are incorruptible. They earn a good wage and don’t want to risk their jobs for a bribe.
But this is very rare. Most times you will have problems with regular cops, which are very corrupt. They earn miserable salaries and they all know that any tourists would pay all the money he has to avoid being in an Indian prison. They are very easy to bribe. But it all depends on how much money you have at the moment of the arrest and the number of cops involved.
Try to always carry with you at least 100 dollars if you walk away with some ganja in your pockets. No need to say you must be always discreet and be sure nobody sees you when you lit a joint or a shilum.
100 dollars should be enough to bribe a couple of officers. But you have to be brave. Try to convince them you haven’t more money. Because they know you would pay all the money you have to avoid get yourself in a dirty Indian prison. And if they insist and ask for more, then is up to you deciding how much pressure you can resist before falling apart and collapse. I understand it is much easier saying than doing it. It is hard to understand how you feel when two cops are smiling in front of you due to enormous pleasure they feel thinking about the extra money they will get that day.
Even this situation can be complicated if the number of cops is more than three or four. It is because they fear to be discovered. It can be difficult to keep a secret among more than two people. If the number of policemen is higher than two, one of them can be indiscreet. They prefer no taking the risk.
As we have said, policemen earn small salaries. Therefore they are very corrupt and easy to bribe. They get different salaries depending on the state where they work. For example, in Goa, one of the most touristic states in India, the wages are very low. However, many cops demand this place to work. Can you figure out why?
This happens because Goa is full of tourists. Every day and night is possible to choose among many parties where drugs are everywhere. Cops keep watching the tourists and finally they choose a prey. They arrest them when they are smoking a joint and, on top of it, carrying some grams in their pockets. Is impossible to imagine the extra money they get from the bribes in this delicious state.
A good option is going to the temples where Hindi priests have their ganja to perform their rituals. Cannabis is considered a divine plant, related to Shiva, and it is always present in their ceremonials. In fact, watching and participating of one of these ceremonies to smoke a shilum is an incredible experience. It takes about an hour to prepare the shilum. When they finish the preparation, they pray a little prayer. After this, they touch their foreheads with the shilum, say the words “Bon Shankar”, have a drag and pass it to next priest. It is an experience I recommend everybody.
Weed is known as “bhang” in India. Most touristic cities have many places where a product named bhanglassi is sold to tourists. They mix the weed with yogurt (lassi) and produce a delicious drink that, moreover, is legal.
Having some of the best marijuana in the world, the resin is sold in pieces named “tolas”. One tola is 10 grams of hash and is quantity enough to get arrested. In India you can find some of the best hash in the world. It comes from Afghanistan, from the valleys in Manaly, from the south plains in Kerala and many more. You will find hundreds of varieties to choose from.
I expect not to have scared someone who wants to visit this country and enjoy its wonderful cannabis. Does any reader remember the film named “Midnight express”? I am sure many do. Is a film that tells the real experience of an American tourist who was arrested for cannabis in a Middle East country. He spent many years in a very hard prison.
Even though most Indians are very honest and nice, you must understand that the poverty is incredible there. Many normal citizens and drug dealers are paired with the police and will give you away if you try to buy them hashish. If you don’t know the country and, therefore, you haven’t connections, don’t ask the first dealer you meet. Find out where the westerners meet and ask someone who knows how to get cannabis without problems.
I really hope not to have scared you if you are planning visiting India. I simply want to warn you about being indiscreet. Just be careful and have a nice trip.