The Consumption of Pot Brownies & Edibles in Bangladesh: An Unconventional Approach to Healing and Connection
The research focuses on Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, as Pot Brownies are popular among the youth culture and Dhaka has an edge both culturally and socio-economically. The community blends with people, especially influenced by western media, botanical curiosity among subcultures, and creatives like musicians and artists who use psychedelics to free their minds and connect with others on a spiritual level. Influences of Ayahuasca are also mentioned. Evidence of Pot Brownies being sold in Dhaka can be traced back to before 10th June 2021 as an Instagram page named “thebrownieguybd” sold Pot Brownies within Dhaka (The Business Standard [TBS Report]) and their customers are mostly young adults to people in their late 30s. Band members are frequently accused of influencing the young generation to do drugs, as was the case with the famous Bangladeshi band “Warfaze” who were caught smoking Marijuana in 2016 during a performance at St. Joseph Higher Secondary School, as stated by Zia Hassan Al-raquib, teacher of St. Joseph Higher Secondary School. Band members are frequently accused of influencing the young generation who idolizes them to do drugs (Hameem).
I. Marsha Rosner’s research on medications with CBD
According to Marsha Rosner, people who consume marijuana or any drugs with CBD (Cannabidiol), which highly goes for people like me who have epilepsy and take prescribed medicines that contain FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved CBD, were very less likely to get affected by Covid. A team led by Marsha Rosner of the University of Chicago discovered that SARS-CoV-2 infection of infected cells in laboratory trials appeared to be inhibited by CBD (Rosner et al.).
II. Spiritual bonding and productivity
At least 80 percent of creatives such as artists, designers, musicians, and creative thinkers have had pot brownies as a delicacy or as an amplifier to their workflow at least once or on multiple occasions. A belief in transparency and no form of judgment leads people to connect better, which strengthens their bonds as they talk about things which are not confined to traditional thought processes. A community that promotes this is the OASIS community from Los Angeles, who sell cannabis edibles and do charity.
Quantitative & Qualitative Reports
Marijuana is a substance that is, was and will be forever demonized in various parts of the world, just like carbonated beverages, commonly known as “Soft drinks” are demonized by a certain group of scientists and people. Despite being demonized, people still consume it in various forms, one of the most common being in the form of brownies, both as a necessity and delicacy. Hence, I filtered down a consumption method, namely “Pot Brownies” that is widely popular around the world and in Bangladesh.
My location of research is focused on Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. This is because “Pot Brownies” are mostly popular among the youth culture and Dhaka has a better edge than other districts both culturally and socio-economically, as stated by Turzo Nicholas Mondol, Lecturer and Coordinator of OSUN Science Shop at BRAC University. My research on Pot brownies as a consumable food of ecstasy contains marijuana or commonly known as “weed”. Marijuana is illegal in Bangladesh and my paper does not take a political stance as I am not for or against the legalization of this product. but I am an advocate for the good it brings rather than the negatives that occur due to substance abuse.
Sections 9 and 19 of the Narcotics Act 1990 states clearly about the punishments for possessing narcotics and for using them or for being associated with peers who possess them (Narcotics Act, 1990).
Section 9, 1.1, states that any form of alcohol and the farming of such substances or plants will lead to jail sentences if not licensed. If this section is breached, then the penalties are faced as per section 19. Section 19, states that possession of particularly cannabis less than 2 kg will lead to imprisonment for 2 and not less than 10 years. If the amount is greater than 2 kg, it will lead to a death sentence or imprisonment for life.
Respecting the laws of Bangladesh and the policy of my university, my conducted research goes in depth as to why people consume pot brownies, and what is the ecstasy they get out of it.
We are all familiar from recent news and daily observation that this “illegal” transaction of food prevails in Bangladesh, but more specifically in Dhaka (The Business Standard [TBS Report]). Before writing this paper, I conducted several interviews related to drug addiction. One person I interviewed had past experiences with consuming pot brownies both inside and outside Bangladesh. Another person, who was used as an example in a recent seminar by Dr. Mehtab Khanom on Drug and Addiction, was also discussed. I interviewed Raisa, who is associated with the Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC), and she shared knowledge she gained from Psychiatrist Dr. Bushra Sultana. Although I did not personally interview anyone from “AMAR Home”, a drug addiction and rehabilitation center in Dhaka, I did talk with an employee named Md. Tanvir Ahmed and gained insights from him.
Both people from “AMAR Home” and Raisa from PHWC state that people do not come here on their own. Unless the drugs are hardcore, like Opium, Heroin or Yaba, if teenagers or young adults come here to seek “Rehabilitation” from Marijuana intake, then they are sent by their parents.
Cannabis has been a multipurpose crop since ancient history as it was valued for its fiber, food, and narcotic and medical uses. Known as “Ganja” in the Indian subcontinent, it was cultivated from the late 18th century until 1987, especially in the Naogaon district of Bangladesh (Rahman et al.). The farmers in Naogaon followed a cooperative based cultivation system of ganja production in Bangladesh and the British government controlled the licensing system back then.
When Bangladesh signed the international narcotic agreement in 1974, the cultivation of “Ganja” slowly came to a stop. It is worth noting that cultivation of cannabis was banned in Bangladesh in 1984 and the sales of cannabis were banned in 1987.
In terms of usage, I will point out how pot brownies are a pioneer in the medical sector as “Psychedelic Healing” is now popular in the west. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mary Jane Rathbun became a San Francisco legend for her dedication to providing free cannabis-laced brownies to AIDS sufferers, or her “babies,” as she referred to them. Four years later, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, in part because of Brownie Mary’s fame and the efforts of many others. And in doing so, the law sparked a nationwide movement toward the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes that is still in progress today (Federman and Pigza).
“Ladies of the Perpetual high”, a new age order of feminist nuns is on a mission to reimagine spiritual devotion and are on a mission to heal the world. “Sisters of the Valley, ” though it may sound like a religious organization, it is not. They are a group of self-proclaimed sisters that promote spirituality while selling medicinal cannabidiol goods. The ladies, led by Sister Kate, are part of a self-described community of nuns who identify as healers, feminists, but more significantly, business women. They don’t stand for a recognized faith (Long). They grow hemp and cannabis-based medicines and salves. According to Sister Kate, “Christianity is dying all around us. What are people going to do? They need spirituality in their life; we need it for meaning. We are very spiritual beings walking a physical path, and so for that reason we will find ways to connect. And we are just one example of that” (Ciani). In India, we have places like Goa and Korlam, where magic mushrooms are prevalent and people consume them and enjoy a state of trance, which the hippie culture romantically refers to as a “Psychedelic trip” (Mcqueen).
An MDMA (3,4 – methylenedioxymethamphetamine) research for treatment-resistant PTSD sufferers of crime, war, or childhood sexual abuse is being conducted by psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer in Charleston, South Carolina. So far, experimental treatment has been used in 17 of the 20 such cases. The findings thus far are quite encouraging, according to Mithoefer. Based on an interview, Mithoefer quotes, “In certain folks, I believe we’re seeing quite substantial, robust results. I hasten to note that these are only early findings; we haven’t reached a point where we can make inferences. However, if things continue in this manner for the remainder of the research, it will seem that there is solid justification to move on to bigger phase III studies” (Brown). Even while research on psychedelic treatment is still in its early stages, the preliminary findings are quite encouraging. An increasing number of researchers think that some treatment-resistant mental conditions may benefit from the use of psychedelic substances, and that they may also allow some patients who receive only partial relief from conventional treatments to have a fuller recovery.
Bangladeshi people, belonging to the age group of late 40s to late 50s, are not as familiar with edibles, while recent news like the three students who were remanded over possession of cannabis brownies (The Business Standard [TBS Report]) has made that a bit more well-known topic. It is a mixture of a fear of the unknown and a fear of going to jail. Parents react more to fear than any moral ground.
Stated by a university-going interviewee, “Most people in the age group do not view the consumption of weed as morally wrong. They may have religious objections or see it as something they should not do because it is illegal in Bangladesh, but they do not necessarily think of the person as bad for doing it. This is particularly true for people who are middle class or upper middle class,” as stated by a university student of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who wished to keep his identity anonymous.
During my interview, I inquired about the social challenges and underlying reasons for consuming illegal pot brownies. The interviewee mentioned that most of his peers did not consume the product, but were generally accepting of his personal choice. However, some individuals may refrain from consuming it due to religious beliefs. The challenge arises when he is among an older demographic, as they were brought up with a different perception of marijuana. Nonetheless, he stated that the consumption of weed is not deemed morally wrong by the majority of people. His initial curiosity about pot brownies was hindered during his teenage years due to negative perceptions in the US. Later, he consumed it to enhance work efficiency and creativity as a copywriter. He acknowledged the potential for marijuana use leading to harder drug use, but some use it for addiction recovery. Overall, responsible use and education may mitigate negative consequences of psychedelic edibles.
Arif, an ex-drug addict who volunteered in a seminar in BRAC University Residential campus alongside Dr. Mehtab Khanom on May 16, 2022, confirmed that his first method of getting rid of his hardcore drug addiction, which included heroin and cocaine consumption, was by consuming pot brownies. While he did not recover from psychedelic healing, I have already mentioned above how MDMA researched this.
My interviewee mentioned that his recent experience of having pot brownies in Thailand amazes him as to how people are openly consuming and selling it by maintaining industry food standards and Thai government policies, which has not only revitalized tourism, but also their GDP. He and I, during the interview, concluded that Bangladesh’s soil is ironically perfect for growing marijuana.
Based on the interviews, the community of people who consume pot brownies are divided into two categories. The first category are the people who take pot brownies out of delicacy. They are not into smoking joints, but they love to experience the state of trance and have a diverse motive when taking pot brownies. These include physical relaxation, getting comfortable with people, boosting productivity, and having a good time. Substance abuse is a common worry associated with the consumption of psychedelic edibles, such as pot brownies. Certain individuals believe that these substances can act as a gateway drug to more potent drugs like heroin and cocaine. Despite this fear, it is important to note that not all pot brownie consumers fall into this category. The perception and availability of these substances can also influence their value as a “gateway drug.”
Both my interviewee and I are unaware of how this “illegal” marijuana is easily available, as in we are still in the dark as to who are the vendors, but one amazing point to note is that marijuana or “weed” can be easily cultivated in Bangladesh because of the fertile soil and favorable weather conditions, which is not really a surprise as the history of weed cultivation in the Indian subcontinent dates back to at least 3500 years ago. In the past, hemp was utilized in India to manufacture natural remedies, wholesome meals, and textile fiber. Ayurveda, a holistic medical system that emphasizes healthy living habits and disease prevention through herbal medicines, is linked to traditional hemp use in India. Ayurveda, which dates back approximately 3500 years, meticulously describes various hemp plant components for a range of therapeutic reasons. (“History of Hemp in India”). Consuming pot brownies can lead to unwanted effects if the person is going through tensions or has negative repressed emotions. However, research by Marsha Rosner suggests that consuming CBD, which is found in drugs prescribed for epilepsy, may lower the risk of COVID-19 infection (Rosner et al.). On the other hand, Indian neurologist S.K. Biswas disagrees and believes that marijuana can decrease the efficacy of seizure medications and increase the risk of seizures. He does not support the use of pot brownies or marijuana for psychedelic healing, as stated by Dr. S.K Biswas, Neurologist of Belle Vue Clinic, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
In conclusion, the demonization of psychedelic edibles in Bangladesh is largely due to their common name “Ganja.” If psychiatrists were to use a different name, such as CBD, it may help those seeking its potential healing benefits. However, it is important to acknowledge that the abuse of psychedelics can lead to negative consequences, just like any other tool or substance. Ultimately, the responsible use of psychedelics can offer individuals a chance for spiritual and psychological growth, and it is up to the individual to use it in a positive manner. Based on the findings and insights discussed in this paper, several recommendations can be made for the responsible use of psychedelic edibles in Bangladesh. First and foremost, it is essential to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the potential therapeutic benefits of these substances. This can be done through seminars, workshops, and training programs. Secondly, legal frameworks around the use of psychedelic edibles need to be reconsidered, with a focus on decriminalization for personal and medicinal use. This will help create a more supportive environment for individuals seeking to use these substances for healing purposes. Additionally, regulations can be put in place to ensure quality control and prevent the use of harmful additives in the production of psychedelic edibles. Finally, research on the safety and efficacy of psychedelic edibles need to be conducted to generate more evidence-based information on their potential therapeutic benefits and risks. By implementing these recommendations, individuals in Bangladesh can have access to safe and responsible use of psychedelic edibles for healing purposes.
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