Tathagata Satpathy, the pro-marijuana legalization MP from Odisha, who recently went viral on social media after he admitted to smoking pot, has found a novel way to further the cause of legalizing the currently illegal substance.
On Thursday, he literally donned a new high when he walked into Parliament wearing a 'cannabis kurta', a garment made out of hemp.
Hemp is the fibrous variant of the cannabis plant and has been in use in India as a substitute fibre for centuries.
The wisecracking Satpathy did not lose a minute to tweet about his new fashion statement:
Bombay Hemp Company, the organisation that supplied the Kurta, has guaranteed that the hemp they use for making garments is 'zero-narcotics'. Going by the chic acronym 'Boheco', the company was only too thrilled to be endorsed by the MP, as is evident from this tweet:
It was an absolute pleasure. We hope to continue getting your support towards draping every Parliamentarian in Hemp https://t.co/881IaU9zqS— Bombay Hemp Company (@Bohecoindia) July 20, 2016
Avinash Pandya, R&D head at Boheco, had told Scroll in 2014:
“For the last 50 years, the government has looked at cannabis cultivation only from the narcotic angle due to the rising pressure on global war on drugs, -- (But) there is another side to cannabis which is harmless and of high economic value, lying untapped. Why not legalise that?"
Boheco contacted Satpathy after he publicly supported the legalization of marijuana earlier in December, and has often called the ban on the soft drug as elitist.
According to him, residents of his state Odisha have been smoking the naturally occurring substance for centuries now. Prohibition of ganja has actually translated into an increase in alcohol consumption for the lower class, seeking substitute intoxicants. Cannabis in the form of Bhang also has a history in India, colored with religious and cultural undertones.
In an interview with Times of India, Satpathy said:
"The NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act (1985) had outlawed a way of life in India by bracketing ganja and charas with killer drugs like smack and heroin and prescribing a minimum 10-year jail term for the sale or possession of these drugs. Government shops that sold ganja and charas shut down and the poor man's intoxicant was made illegal. Meantime, informal trade moved from these soft drugs to killer smack because while the punishment was the same, the profit margin for smack was 10 times higher than for ganja. And for the first time, we witnessed a drugs problem in India with the emergence of the desperate "smackiya""
The MP, who has quickly amassed a cult following among the young and 'progressive', and is also the Chief Whip of the Bharatiya Janata Dal, carries his rockstar image with elan, even as he tells the public 'legal' ways to score pot. But he also talks of practical uses of the soft drug other than recreation, as reported by The Telegraph:
"When I spoke about the need to legalise marijuana, I did not have in mind its recreational uses only. I see it as a low-maintenance cash crop that can provide an alternative form of livelihood."
Earlier, in a Reddit Q&A session, the senior minister, with a 93 per cent Lok Sabha attendance, (as opposed to the 83 per cent average of parliamentarians) had said:
“While in college, I have smoked (and unlike Bill Clinton have inhaled) cannabis many a times. In villages of Orissa, many people openly smoke and, as their representative, I am not entitled to be judgmental.”
Many enthusiasts have been pushing for the legalisation of at least the low-maintenance industrial hemp, or Cannabis Sativa L, which has allegedly been in use as a cloth substitute in rural India for centuries.
Recently, Uttarakhand became the first state in India to legalize the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes after growing demand for hemp textiles.