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The Journey of Marijuana in Kashmir: From Farms to Lungs

Zubair Sofi |
The doctors who have tested this kind of marijuana call it a potent cocktail of poison which can paralyze a person, or can even make him/her comatose for years.

Image Coutesy: The Indian Express

Marijuana, popular among the Indian users as kala sona (black gold) or maal is banned in Jammu and Kashmir, but it is nevertheless cultivated in many parts of the state illegally. Its cultivation is more prevalent in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, located at a distance of 60 km from Srinagar.

In its purest form, it is usually smuggled to other parts of the country. Another lot, of less potency, is peddled locally.

Marketing an illegal product is obviously a risky albeit a vital step for the producers. It is entrusted to those who know the nitty-gritty of the business, like from where it can be bought and when. But smuggling it to the parts outside the valley is a slippery terrain.

Mohammad Shafi Wani, 36, a smuggler who dwells in Sangam area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, understands the risks. The five and half feet-tall man, of dusky complexion, says that smuggling marijuana is a forced choice. It can cost him his life.

Shafi calls himself a mastermind of the business because he smuggles it via road, and passes more than 20 major checkposts to make it available outside the hamlet. These checkpoints are erected on the Srinagar-Jammu highway to track the militants’ movements, and not exactly to bait the smugglers.

This journey begins with intricate packing. To be smuggled out, marijuana has to be compressed into dense chunks, which are then covered with a newspaper, and then wrapped in a transparent polythene so that the packaging is airtight. It has to be ensured that the quality remains intact until it reaches the buyers.

To outsmart the forces at checkpoints, the crammed bars go through a process that is codenamed as parda (curtain) by the dealers. In this process, all the sachets are dipped into molten wax, and are allowed to be dried completely. Wax acts as an insulating coating which impedes the radiation, and can effectively fool the snout of the police dogs.

“This neat trick makes it extremely secure, and is at the heart of our trade. Every smuggler applies this method, and bypasses every new technology,” says Shafi.

Every supplier has a car specially remodelled for smuggling which facilitates bootlegging of large quantities of marijuana, and maintains the shape of the body despite more weight inside. Most of the smugglers prefer the ‘Swift Dzire’ model because the boot of this car is larger than that of the others.   

The boot has another tin sheet affixed from both the sides of the car, and is contrived in such a way that 30 to 40 kilograms of marijuana can be smuggled out in a single trip.

The quantity of marijuana that is smuggled out usually depends on the orders.

“No technology can locate marijuana in my car. I know many smart ways to hoodwink not only frisking machines, but the best of their (police’s) trained dogs as well,” says Shafi.

Once the checkposts are crossed, deals usually transpire directly between the two parties concerned, as the presence of a third party spells danger.

Once the exchange of marijuana and money is complete, the ensuing challenge is carrying the huge amount of the cash back to the state.

“One has to be equally wary of the highway robbers and the cops. We usually stash the cash inside the seats or in the space behind the headlights,” chimes Shafi with a wink.

When it comes to the local peddling, the process is quite different, as the marijuana needs to be spruced up for it to work.

“Only high-quality marijuana can be smuggled outside and it fetches good money as well, ” says Shafi.

The low-grade Marijuana which is peddled in Kashmir is not really natural at all. Possibility of intense intoxication is negligible with low-quality marijuana; so, the peddlers spike it up artificially using several extremely harmful additives. It is laced with sedatives like Alprox, Anxit, Diazepam (sleeping pills) and Spasmoproxima to make it more intoxicating.

The local peddlers also spray pesticides like Kala Hit on the harvested chips of marijuana.

Soon after the marijuana is packed, local peddlers who have ties in different parts of the valley, contact dealers and sell it in bulk.

“We don’t sell the Marijuana to addicts who can land us in a mess. It’s not only about the trouble. We prefer to sell large quantities to those who can afford it. We have contacts with several dealers who are experts in supervising the addicts,” says Shafi.

Nisar Ahmad Sheikh, (37), a resident of Hawal, Srinagar, is a well-known peddler in the Downtown and the old city.

“I’m a marijuana huckster for the last nine years. I have faced a lot of cases of peddling, but I always make a smart escape,” says Nisar with a grin.

Once the deal is done with the main peddler, Nisar takes it back to his home, and seeks the help of his wife and children in chunking the produce.

Every chunk of marijuana costs at least Rs 300. Price depends on the quantity and the weight. But the effect of this tainted form of marijuana is more of a peril than pleasure.

The junkies who consider themselves inebriated after smoking this kind of Marijuana are actually under the lulling effect of the sedatives, or are experiencing the harmful biochemical aftereffects of consuming small quantities of pesticides.

The doctors who have tested this kind of marijuana call it a potent cocktail of poison which can paralyze a person, or can even make him/her comatose for years.

Dr Aijaz, a Srinagar-based psychiatrist has been treating many such cases of addiction (consuming mixed marijuana). He corroborates: “At the initial stage, the marijuana consumer needs only one joint to get hallucinated; but with the passage of time, that stage cannot be reached even after consuming five joints a day.”

And while the addict’s body morphs at being subjected to such pernicious substances, it manifests symptoms like shivering, severe headache, restlessness, fatigue, mood fluctuations, breathlessness, cardiac arrest, brain stroke and many more.

However, people who have become slaves to addiction, keep smoking marijuana, perhaps as an escape from the stressful life of the conflict-ridden state.

Names of the characters in the story have been changed.

Also read: A Tale of Devastation, Betrayal, Revenge and Self-destruction

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