The verdant Kullu valleys have become infamous for cannabis cultivation. The marijuana varieties growing in wilderness in the remote regions here have become world famous and are in great demand in the international drug market.
Now, hybrid cannabis is being produced from strains that grow in Kullu. The cannabis varieties grown in Kullu are famous amongst cannabis growers in Holland - where cannabis cultivation is legalised. "A company has been started in the Netherlands under the name of Kullu Seeds, which is now one of the leading firms providing a variety of marijuana seeds," says a police official.
The hybrid cannabis strains found in Kullu are being smuggled to countries where there is demand for charas, hash oil.
The marijuana seeds found in Kullu have been crossbred with other varieties which have high resin contents. These varieties are being sold under different brands such as skunk, red hair, turbo diesel, early girl, white widow, flower power, morning California, haze skunks. "We have information that a foreign company is selling marijuana seeds under Kullu brand," says superintendent of police Kullu, Ashok Kumar.
What have surprised the police, during their cannabis destruction campaign in Kullu, are the hybrid varieties of cannabis. "In some places, the cannabis plants are more than 12-foot tall. It is unusual. The Indian cannabis does not grow to this extent," says Ashok Kumar, adding that carrying cannabis seeds is not covered under the NDPS act.
While the police do not have any firm evidence about how the hybrid varieties of charas are grown in the remote forests in Kullu, there is a growing belief that this is a handiwork of foreigners.
Information gathered by the locals gives a fair idea of their modus operandi. A set of foreigners gets hybrid seeds and another set resides here and monitors the cultivation through local folks. The produce is then smuggled out by the villagers to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa to be shipped abroad.
The Parvati, Manikaran valleys are hub of charas cultivation. Cheap Nepali labour is available to make things easier as villages such as Malana, Kasol and Tosh compete for higher production. Like Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh has also turned into a major attraction for foreign tourists. However, tourist influx in Himachal owes more to narcotic nexus than to the outstanding geography, people and culture.
More than one lakh foreigners visit the hill state annually and their movement through different parts of the state, such as Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Dharamshala and other parts of the country promotes narcotics proliferation. This has inspired the locals to stealthily cultivate illegal poppy or cannabis crops to make a quick buck. Besides the marginal villages of Kullu, the malaise has spread to areas of Chuhar valley of Mandi district, Tissa in Chamba and Bara Bhangal area of Kangra district as well where people have abandoned cultivating other crops.