My Story of Drugs in India: Goan Hash

This year I have been lucky enough to travel through Asia – including India and Nepal – writing about my experiences and searching for information around new substances. The views on drugs can drastically change from country to country, with laws, culture and availability affecting this. One nation may allow for cannabis legalization and psilocybin research, whilst another would deal with these substances extremely strictly.

The world is full of diverse opinions, and I came here to find out for myself. Research is one thing, but on-the-ground knowledge is another. In this article I will tell my story of landing in the south Indian district of Goa and experiencing some of the best hash in the world. 

The Journey 

Travelling has always been an important part of my life. Since a young age I have tried to see and do as much as I possibly can, with emphasis on going abroad. There is so much that a person can learn about themselves and other people from experiencing new cultures and new places. There’s food, there’s music, there’s the people, there’s the substances, there’s endless possibilities. It increases empathy and love for the rest of the world, as well as opening your mind to different ways of living. NYU writes:

“We are communal creatures that are all of the same species, yet our location determines societal actions based off cultured and governmental laws. We are so similar, yet our little worlds are so entirely different.”

That is why when a window of opportunity arose to travel through Nepal and India, I wasn’t going to turn it down. Myself and my partner had the money and the time to take our work with us and go away. The Journey started in Nepal in the old hippie trail location of Kathmandu – the capital. After days of sightseeing in an overwhelmingly bustling city, we headed to the small village of Bandipur. When I say small, I mean literally the size of one cowboy-looking street. It was absolutely beautiful. Then came Pokhara, a city stretching around a lake, where true bohemia has found itself. Here we took part in a meditation and yoga retreat, finding the high in transcendence instead of psychedelics. We were basically following in the footsteps of the Beatles before they wrote the White Album. Afterwards we went to the national park of Chitwan, a jungle where a plethora of wild animals run free in their natural habitat. This was where a guide – with only a stick in his hand to fend off tigers and elephants – took us around the huge park. Before we entered and boated across the crocodile-infested river, he offered us a joint. In a paranoid state already, I respectfully declined. I wanted to be completely alert. Fortunately but completely expectedly we survived, and I am still alive now to tell the tale. After this we went back to Kathmandu to have a few days rest, go to the Lord of Drinks (voted 52nd best club in the world by some unknown magazine), before heading on a flight to Delhi and Goa. It was here that the long awaited hash experience finally came to us. Here’s how it happened. 

Day 1

We’ve just landed in Delhi after a 2 hour flight from Kathmandu. It is safe to say that I still do despite flying as a mode of transport. Everytime I get on an aeroplane I have this ignorant hope that, somehow, it will be enjoyable… but it never is. After several pharmacies declined, eventually we were able to pick up some valium without a prescription in Kathmandu. This was extremely fortunate because it took the edge of anxiety off me for the duration of the flight. I don’t usually take any pills before flying, but with two flights in one day I just didn’t think I’d be able to handle it without some sort of substance. The truth is, valium takes away a lot of the anxious thoughts I have when I am on an aeroplane, but not many people advise taking them. Harbourside writes: 

“Diazepam is a sedative, which means it makes you sleepy and slows reaction times. If there is an emergency during the flight it may affect your ability to concentrate, follow instructions and react to the situation”

However, I am unsure how much anyone can actually do if a plane is going down. Surely it would be better to be sedated rather than to deal with that emotional rollercoaster. But who knows? According to a study by the European Transport Safety Council, plane crashes have a 90% survival rate. So perhaps being alert and quick in your reactions is important. 

Day 2

We landed in Goa late last night and went to sleep pretty early. We’re staying in North Goa – Anjuna – supposedly the last remaining evidence of the hippie paradise of the 60s and 70s. But our first experience of the place was far from liberal and free. In fact, we attempted to go swimming and within minutes a bunch of old, dodgy-looking Indian men decided to try and record my partner swimming. We’d heard about this potentially happening in the Lonely Planet guide but, to be honest, it was shocking to experience. I very much doubt this sort of thing was happening in Goa’s glory years. Plus, Anjuna beach is now full of commercial clubs and bars, banging out chart music that makes your ears want to die. We spoke to a local who said that the famous clubs of the North – including Curly’s and Hill Top – had closed down due to drug controversy. These were, according to him, the last remaining authentic places in North Goa. Having come all this way, to be told this was nothing short of depressing. Is there nothing left of the old Goa that my dad relentlessly bangs on about?

Day 4 

Today was interesting. We rented mopeds and went half an hour up the road to Mandrem beach. This spot, further north, is supposedly more liberal and full of potential substances. Essentially, it’s been 4 days in Goa now and we still haven’t had the chance to buy any hash. It’s unacceptable. Before visiting India you hear about how much bhang lassis and hash there is lying around, but somehow Goa has yet to prove that to us. When I visited Rajasthan 3 years ago It was very accessible, but maybe there’s something about Goa that makes it harder to find. But today we found a lead. We went to the long-stretched, stunning beach of Mandrem where the smell of cannabis was certainly in the air. We followed the scent and found a tourist smoking a joint and asked if we could purchase some. She declined, letting us have a toke each, and then said that Arambol was the spot to get it and she gave us the number of a dealer. However, she warned us that Goa isn’t what it used to be. Police are now far more strict on drug use, and will fine you harshly. The chief of police in Goa recently said:

“We are conducting raids on those parties where we suspect there is sale and consumption of drugs. Goa will not tolerate drugs,” 

We texted the dealer and after a long awaited reply, he responded, asking us to meet him at Arambol beach the next day. The wait for the hash goes on.

Day 5

I am writing this with a cheeky grin and sensation of warmth, this is because we finally found our Goan hash. In the evening we headed to Arambol beach, the dealer felt it would be less obvious in the dark. The stretch of water was lit up by hundreds of candle lit tables glowing up the beach. It was a very romantic image. Nonetheless, we couldn’t stop and have a coupley meal, we had a goal to achieve. We had to get the hash. We waited for maybe an hour, twiddling our thumbs, standing in the dark. We probably looked like dealers ourselves. Then, finally, a dude with a bucket hat and a tank top walked up to us. He shook my hand and passed me a block of hash – 5 grams. It cost 3000 rupees, which is around $30. Whenever someone passes you a drug with a handshake you can’t help but feel like you’re in a gangster movie. But nonetheless, I kept my cool. The dealer was actually called Adi and he was a very nice guy. We spoke for an hour or so about the culture of Goa and how it has changed. He told us that drug dealers are so afraid of getting caught that they are now seriously limiting their dealings, as well as seriously raising their prices. The days of cheap Goan drugs have gone. You could expect to pay 1500 rupees for an ecstasy pill and around 5000 rupees for a gram of meth – they don’t sell cocaine. Either way, we were happy to finally get our hands on some hash. 

The one last thing he mentioned as we got on our moped to go and enjoy our drugs in peace, was to be careful of police on the roads. He said that they are constantly stopping tourists, checking them for drugs, and then giving them a fine if they find anything. I didn’t think this would be relevant until, on our way back, we were faced with this exact situation. I was driving the bike and – out of nowhere – I saw a man in a police uniform up ahead. He waved at us to stop. At this moment I had to make a split decision. There was no legal requirement for me to stop. I did not need to stop. Who was this guy? I had my helmet on and my lights were working. What reason did he have to stop me? So, without thinking, I revved faster and drove straight past the police officer. He shouted but, other than that, nothing else happened. However, if I had stopped, I would have been seriously fined by the corrupt Goan authorities

When we arrived back at our hostel in Anjuna, we rolled up a few joints and headed to Anjuna beach. The hash crumbled deliciously in my hands and gave the most beautifully mellow high. A complete body relaxation, without any head anxiety. Finally, we had found our block of hash and luckily we had 5 grams of it too, which meant that we wouldn’t be running out any time soon. 

All I can say – today was a good day. But it doesn’t end here.

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Police in India Say Rats Ate More Than 1,100 Pounds of Confiscated Weed

We have all heard of the dog who ate the homework, but rats who ate the weed? That’s a new one, but it is apparently the account that has been offered up by law enforcement officials in India, who are blaming the pesky rodents for getting their fangs on some seized marijuana. 

CNN has the weird (and disgusting) details, reporting on court documents that spell out the damage that rats have imposed on confiscated contraband in northern India.

The network quotes a court in the city of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, which noted that “local police were unable to furnish almost 200 kilograms of confiscated cannabis that was supposed to be used as evidence in a recent case.”

“Rats are small animals, and they aren’t scared of the police,” the court said, as quoted by CNN.

“Court documents said the police had been asked to provide 386 kilograms of cannabis, but the prosecution flagged to the court that more than 700 kilograms of marijuana stored in various stations across Mathura could be impacted by the rat infestation,” CNN reported. “And this was – allegedly – not the first time the rats had struck. The judge hearing the case cited Mathura police as blaming the rodents for destroying a total of more than 500 kilograms [a little more than 1,100 pounds] of cannabis that had been seized in various cases and stored at the city’s Shergarh and Highway Police Station.”

It should be noted that not everyone accepts that version of events. Mathura City Police Superintendent Martand Prakash Singh told CNN that the weed had in fact been “destroyed by rains and flooding,” not rats.

“There was no reference to rats in the (report submitted to the court) … the police only mentioned that the seized cannabis was destroyed in the rains and flooding,” Singh said.

India’s laws on cannabis use and cultivation are spelled out in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985. According to the website The Print, the law “prohibits the sale and use of cannabis resin and flowers, [but] it permits the use of its seeds, stems, and leaves.”

In 2019, with concerns surrounding vaping mounting around the world, India issued a ban on all electronic cigarettes

“Unfortunately, e-cigarettes got promoted initially as a way in which people can get out of the habit of smoking cigarettes. It was to be a weaning process from using cigarettes,” Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the time, as quoted by CNN. “The Cabinet rightly thought it is time and we immediately took a decision so that the health of our citizens, of our young, is not thrown to a risk.”

According to CNN, “Sitharaman added that the ban would cover e-cigarette production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement,” and that it included “all forms of ENDS, heat-not-burn products and e-hookah devices.”

“People who violate the ban once could face up to one year in prison or a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,400) or both. For subsequent offenses, the penalty would be five years imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 rupees ($7,000). Storing e-cigarettes would also be punishable with up to six months in prison and a 50,000-rupee ($700) fine,” CNN reported at the time.

The Indian government said at the time that those “novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavors and their use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children.” 

The post Police in India Say Rats Ate More Than 1,100 Pounds of Confiscated Weed appeared first on High Times.

My Experience: Taking Magic Mushrooms in Goa

If there’s one place on Earth where magic mushrooms are meant to be consumed it is the sun-kissed, stretched out beaches of Goa. With palm trees hanging over you like an omnibenevolent presence, the sea glinting for what seems like forever, the sky bluer than you’ve ever seen and, of course, the sound of light trance music comfortably guiding you into a meditative state – is there anywhere better to enjoy a psychedelic trip?

Whilst the south Indian state of Goa had its hallucinogenic hayday in the 60s and 70s, this does not mean that the place has completely lost its charm and soul. Drugs are not as easy to find as they were back then and the party scene has definitely become more commercialized, but when I was offered magic mushrooms by a green-haired lady who looked like a character from a Studio Ghibli movie, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Maybe this was the chance to experience what the hippie paradise used to be like. This is the story of how I took magic mushrooms in Goa. 


Goa is one of the 25 districts that exists within the incredibly diverse and huge nation of India. It is the 7th largest country in the world, with the second biggest population. Whilst most know India for its temples, mountains, deserts and spiritual getaways, there is also another reality. This reality is, in essence, Goa. A coastal district in the south of the country, which still has the remnants of its Portuguese colonial past.

This place has some of the best food in the entirety of India, has beaches that stretch for miles and, significantly, had a large part to play in the 60s hippie trail. This was a gigantic journey around the globe that many westerners took in the 1960s – mostly with only a VW van, some light luggage and some great friends. It was a right of passage, a chance to see the world after generations of conflict. The trip for many started in London, went through Europe, into the Middle East and deep into Asia.

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This was, for many, where it ended; others boated over to Australia. Goa was like the promised land, the light at the end of the road. Those who’d managed to get that far would sleep in beach shacks, live in peace and enjoy all types of mind-altering substances. Duncan Cambell writes about his experiences in the Guardian:

“It was possible to live for months on a few quid. A bed in a shared bedroom could be secured for six rupees a night. “Imagine no possessions” was a creed as well as a line in a John Lennon song. Fresh fish, coconut rice. Paperback copies of Hermann Hesse and Rabindranath Tagore, William Burroughs and the Bhagavad Gita were swapped… Disconnection from the west was complete”

The question people seem to ask when they wander around Goa now is: is this still a paradise or is it a paradise lost? In other words, has its time passed? It is often irritating being told by older generations how much better life was in their day. An image of an old man, sitting in his armchair, reading a copy of Nietzsche comes to mind, saying: “back in my day, no one sat around looking at their screens, they would read books and explore the world”. Well maybe Goa was better in the 60s, but at least we have better healthcare, eh? 

Goa now still has its long beaches and palm trees, but they are no longer empty. The majority of the beaches in the North and South are full of resorts and thousands of tourists, many of them more interested in taking the perfect Instagram photo rather than learning about the culture. However, not all hope is lost. The soul of a place cannot be eradicated, but it can be led astray. One writer exemplifies this perfect: 

“While Goa today may not exude the carefree nature of the early 1970s when it was a hub for hedonistic Hippies from around the world, much of the culture that sprung the movement still remains in pockets.”

That is why when I was offered the chance to take magic mushrooms on a Goan beach I simply could not say no. It would be a disrespect to my ancestors. 

Magic Mushrooms in Goa

The drug scene in Goa is certainly different in 2022 from what it was back in the ‘glory years’. Many substances were easily available in the 70s due to a lack of police authority – hashish, LSD and basically anything else. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that the majority of recreational drugs were deemed illegal by the government, before that they were accepted. Now, of course, all common drugs are banned and dealt with harshly. You may have to bribe a police officer 100,000 rupees if caught or be put in prison. Many of Goa’s best and most beloved clubs – including Curly’s and Hill Top – have recently been closed down due to drug controversy. Goan authorities are on a dogged mission to end the reputation of the beach district as a substance tourist spot. 

However, whilst I was in Goa it was still possible to find drugs. In the north beach of Arambol it was possible to slyly find hashish or some dodgy meth that was being disguised as cocaine. However, it wasn’t what I had imagined. I dreamt of a chilled shack that sold shroom shakes and hash, but instead I found myself in a dark alleyway and could feel the fear in the dealer’s eyes; being caught by the police being a terrible threat. The India Times writes:

“In the last seven months, Goa police has seized around 100kg of narcotic substances worth over Rs 2.5 croce. Goa police have not only arrested Goans in the trade but also people from outside the state and foreigners… Ganja, caracas, LSD, MDMA, ecstasy tablets and powder, cocaine, hashish oil, heroin and cannabis are among the drugs that have been seized.”

In essence, this wasn’t what I had really been expecting. However, hope was not lost. A few weeks into my trip I was visited by an elder Indian Canadian woman with striking green hair. She was incredibly warm and comforting, I felt like I’d known her my entire life. She approached me at a beach bar in Ashwem and we got chatting. Her line of work was rather extraordinary. She lived in Goa and worked as toad venom shaman; helping people through their trip. I told her my ambition to try psychedelics whilst in Goa and within 30 minutes she’d sold me 10 grams of magic mushrooms. After that she sort of disappeared into the etha, never to be seen again. 

The Trip

I was in Goa with my girlfriend and we were pretty overjoyed that we’d finally managed to find hallucinogens. The next step was to ensure our set and setting were perfect – we didn’t want any bad vibes to ruin our trip. We decided to take them early – 3pm – this way we’d be able to have dinner in the evening and enjoy a chilled sleep. Although, we managed to buy some valium at the pharmacy just in case we found sleep difficult.

We divided the mushrooms into 2 grams each and found a perfect shaded spot on the beach. We didn’t want to overdo the amount – I mean, they looked like liberty caps but how can you ever be sure? A magic mushroom trip usually lasts around 4-6 hours, with the peak coming at around 3 hours in, which we hoped would bring us to the beautiful Goan sunset at around 6pm. 

Then we ate. They tasted awful but we washed them down with a beer. It had been a few years since my last psychedelic trip so I was full of nerves, but I was actively telling myself to simply allow the experience to happen. My intention for the trip was: to see the beauty in everything. To be honest, I realise in hindsight that this intention was a little vague. Anyway, it was hot, very hot. Within 30 minutes I decided to go into the sea to refresh but as I walked back to the sun beds everything went strange. The beach stretched out for miles and everything sounded different; enhanced.

My body was heavier than it had ever been and I felt like I needed to sit down. The trip had begun. With magic mushrooms you often can’t quite work out why you feel a certain way, which is why it took us maybe another 30 minutes before we finally realized that it was the heat that was making our bodies feel so tired. We decided to walk back to our hostel. On the way back everything felt wavey and technicolor, and each interaction with another human felt like a video game. We tried to buy water from a shop owner and it felt like we had some sort of secret. 

The peak of the trip happened in our air conditioned room. We showered probably around 10 times each just because of how good the water felt on our skin. We cried, we had moments alone, we had moments together. An entire lifetime happened in that wavey, orange room. Nothing and everything had the space to occur. It was only when the visuals began to subside slightly that we felt able to go and see the sunset on the beach.

The trip was on its way down but one overriding sense remained: beauty. The world was beautiful. The people, the sunset; everything. We enjoyed some deliciously tasty food – enhanced by the shrooms – and watched as the sunset turned to stars. Whilst the trip was no longer at its peak, we were refreshed, rid of our anxieties and issues. All there was left was to allow the world to truly be its spectacular self in front of our eyes. 

Final Thoughts

Had we found old Goa? Of course not. You cannot recreate the past and you’ll spend your life disappointed if you try. However, we’d found our own version of Goa. Whilst the overriding sun may have caused us to spend a great deal of the trip inside our hostel room, it didn’t stop the experience from being wonderful.

My intention had been to see the beauty in the world and it certainly had worked. I felt clarity. One of the reasons why psilocybin is now being explored as a therapeutic substance is due to this exact experience – people report feeling happier and clearer for months after a psychedelic trip. If I ever return to Goa I hope I will one day meet that green-haired, studio Ghibli character again but – if not – I will simply write it here: thank you.

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The History of Goa and Its Iconic Hippie Culture

In the South end of India, amidst the palm trees and spicy curries, with an evident leftover of Portuguese rule, lies the historic beachside stretch of Goa. This old heaven – the last stop on the hippie trail – gained huge popularity in the 60s and 70s, becoming known for its peaceful nature, expansive beaches and psychedelic trance music.

You know those places that you desperately want to visit, but your dad sits you down and says, “I’m sorry, it was just better in the old days”, well this is one of those. Goa lives in the past – constantly looking back at a time where it was less touristy, less busy and freer. Well, here I currently sit, with a small moped and a chai tea, on the Goan beach of Anjuna. Does this place have any remnants of what it once was? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what all the fuss is about. 

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Goa, India

Before we delve into Goa’s more recent history, let’s first go further back in time. As with any hippie hotspot, there will be a reason why so many people found something special in this south Indian district. First of all, Goa is near the bottom of India – which is the 7th largest country in the world, and has the 2nd biggest population (around 1.4 billion people).

Goa, specifically, has around 1.4 million people living on its 3700km land. The beaches are famous for being massively long and flat, and the sunsets – looking out to the Arabian Ocean – are breathtaking. Many people come to Goa and wonder why it’s so different from the rest of India.

There is a lot of greenery, with coconut trees rising higher than you’ve ever seen, and the smell of sea water and Goan fish curry in the air. But that’s not the main difference. One huge contributor is the evident remnants of Portuguese rule, which began in 1510 – lasting 450 years. The churches and old buildings have an obvious European inspiration, which feels odd to see in an Indian district, but it definitely adds to its beauty. Britannica writes more on how the Portuguese took power of Goa:

“The city was attacked in March 1510 by the Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque. The city surrendered without a struggle, and Albuquerque entered it in triumph. Three months later Yūsuf ʿĀdil Khan returned with 60,000 troops, forced the passage of the ford, and blockaded the Portuguese in their ships…  In November, Albuquerque returned with a larger force and… recaptured the city… Goa became the capital of the whole Portuguese empire in Asia.

The age of ‘Golden Goa’ is actually known to be long before the hippies turned up in the late 60s, but actually in the period between the 1500s and 1600s. This was a period when the voyages of Portugal began, opening up a western Europe sea route to Asia. During this century, the Portuguese held a monopoly over the Indian ocean. Goa was used as the perfect sailing point after or before a long and sometimes tumultuous journey. It’s important to consider, of course, that the growth of any empire is not one to be celebrated. Whilst Portuguese rule allowed for much of Goan culture to remain the same, it was still an example of the superiority complex that Europe had. Nonetheless, you cannot deny the beauty of this place. The Goan tropics, Indian food, and a peppering of ancient Portuguese architecture is a recipe for wonder. Outlook India perfectly summarises the experience of the place: 

“450 years of Portuguese occ­u­p­ation have left an ind­elible impact on the cul­ture, cuisine and archite­cture of the tiny state, and giv­es this tou­rist parad­ise a distinct, hard-to-quantify flavour.”

Goa managed to avoid British rule – which dominated the majority of India – due to being part of the Portuguese empire. In 1961, after a long and arduous battle, they gained their independence. It was a great day for the Goan people. However, a new kind of colonisation was about to begin. The hippies were coming. 

Hippie Trail

If you ask anyone about Goa’s history, you’ll most likely hear about the hippie culture that was growing in the 60s and 70s. Young people, travelling by hippie van from the US or Europe, lying on a beach enjoying psychedelic trance and recreational drugs. The world had experienced the war to end all wars and were still living in the aftermath. In America, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war were dominating proceedings.

After a lifetime of wars and conflicts, leaving home and embarking on the hippie trail felt like a chance to breathe. The hippie trail was a driving route which took passengers from Europe to Asia. Whilst airlines and flights were gaining traction, the high prices made them nearly impossible. Therefore, buses around the world became popular. In 1957, the Indiaman bus was organized from London. It took 20 passengers in 2 months all the way to Kolkata, India, with a return price of only 65 pounds. It was this route, and many others like it, that began the hippie trail. Groups in their VW buses – Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Hendrix blaring – would drive themselves all the way through Europe, into the Middle East, and into Asia. History Extra writes:

“For some, it was…  an expression of 1960s counterculture – and for many of those the use of drugs including opium or hash was a key part of the experience. For others, it was just a great adventure: a chance to travel cheaply and encounter unfamiliar cultures… As Rory MacLean notes in Magic Bus, his 2006 history of the phenomenon, they comprised “the first movement of people in history travelling to be colonized rather than to colonize”

The hippie trail would often end in the south part of India. This is why Goa was such a hippie haven. After a journey that had taken months, perhaps years, it was a time to unwind and – for many – to settle here. 

Goa and the Hippies

You only have to visit Goa to understand why many people would have settled here. The prices are cheap now, so to think how low they would have been in the 60s and 70s would be shocking. But not only that, the peacefulness and spirituality of the place is undeniable. After months of travelling round the world, ending up on one of the many beaches of Goa must’ve felt like quite God had spat you into heaven.

It was eventually seen as the end point of the trail – like a rising star in the distance, keeping those travelling on course to paradise. However, the movement was as much about the people travelling as it was about the place. For the first time in a long time, it was becoming fashionable to want to explore the world and learn from other cultures. With this came a desire for global connection, an end to conflict and a beginning of a different way of seeing.

Of course, as is often the case, this movement also brought with it an exploration of psychedelic drugs. Anjuna, one of the popular beaches, was known to have easy access to LSD, hash and heroin – partly due to a lack of a police station. Plus, these drugs were not even declared illegal in the area until the 70s. In addition, opium and other substances had been traded freely through Goa during Portuguese rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, meaning there was an abundance of the stuff. Alongside the drugs came the music. Vice writes:

“Goa’s music scene also grew from guitar-strumming psychedelic rock, to becoming the first Indian state to have an electronic music scene. By the mid-80s, the love and peace motives of the hippie movement began slowly fading away, as the scene gave way to psychedelic trance… And as we descended into the 90s, Goa’s psychedelic raves went from an underground scene to worldwide recognition”

As with any golden age, it must eventually come to an end. As Goa became globally recognized, and flights became cheaper, the alternative movement of the past was taken over by young ravers looking to get ‘messy’. Beaches became overpopulated with people and bars, the police began to crack down on drug use and the locals began playing on the ‘hippie history’ with hollow and inauthentic venues. The real reason and purpose behind the movement in the 60s and 70s was gone.  

Goa Now

It is very easy to say that Goa will never be the same, and in a sense, it won’t be. Even when you enter the airport now, you’re blinded by casino advertisements and pictures of semi-nude women. It is now seen by many as a place to leave your morality at the door. For those who wish to find the hippie culture of the 70s, it is nearly impossible, as almost everywhere is commercialized. Nonetheless, not all hope is lost. No time can be like another.

The coconut trees still grow, the food is still gorgeous and the music still plays – even if many bars are limited to a 10pm cut off time. We cannot go back, but we can look forward. With the world constantly changing, new conflicts looming, perhaps Goa is due another golden era sometime soon. As I sit here, in the old hippie haven of Anjuna beach, I can still taste the history in the air and am ready to enjoy making some more of it.

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Pushkar: The Hippie’s Paradise

Deep in the midst of the Indian mountains, next to a forgotten lake, with the peaceful sounds of silence, is the small spiritual town of Pushkar. Within the northern state of Rajasthan, in the Ajmer district, this paradise will leave you speechless. The temples, the locals and the hashish – these are all beautiful ingredients that make Pushkar a hippies dream. But what really makes this place what it is? A few years ago I stumbled across this ideal location with a few friends and I honestly have never been anywhere better. Chillems, cookable ketamine, special lassis, were all available and were the icing on the already spectacular cake. This is Pushkar. 

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The Word ‘Hippy’

The word hippy has been misused on many occasions, and it can sometimes leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. So I’d like to define what I mean first before I continue. The 60s was the real defining moment for hippy culture, when people used the name to stand for anti-establishment movements. These included civil rights, women’s rights and anti-war protests. It was a name that people wore with pride. Hippies were all about acceptance and a love for all cultures on the planet. This is what eventually led to the hippie trail; a car voyage around the entire world. However, then came the inevitable re-possession of the word by the media and the government, which tried to re-define it. For them, ‘hippy’ meant: lazy, dangerous, drug-obsessed. Nixon’s war on drugs would do anything to demonize those who had any opposing thoughts to the establishment. John Ehrlichman, former domestic policy chief for Nixon, said in a CNN article:

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

This is literal proof of how and why the term hippy went from being about love, free-spirit and togetherness, to becoming associated with negativity. The power of the media is undoubtable. 

What Is A Hippy Paradise?

Everyone has their own version of paradise. For some, they want partying and late nights. For others, they want tranquil sounds and early morning wake ups. And some people like hiking up steep mountains and riding bikes down dirt tracks. For me, it’s somewhere in between. A hippy paradise is a place that accepts, loves and welcomes diversity and difference. In addition, this often comes with an acceptance for various recreational substances, rather than an instant and narrow-minded dismissal.

Ultimately, a hippy paradise welcomes everything that the hippy culture did and does stand for. That is why Pushkar is one of those places. Perhaps also it has something to do with the fact that India was actually one of the last stops on the hippie trail – a journey that started in London. At the beginning of airplane travel, when the cost of flights were excessive, groups of young people would buy a VW van and set out to travel the world by car. It was journeys like this that led to the creation of the Lonely Planet travel guides. Open Skies Magazine writes:

“They would traverse Europe, the Middle East and Asia, spending months travelling across 11,000 miles of terrain in order to find whatever it was they sought. Some yearned to escape the drudgery of their dead-end jobs in Luton or Liverpool or London, heading to Varanasi in India”

So why does Pushkar deserve to be described as a hippy paradise? Let’s look deep into this beautiful place, and find out. 


Pushkar is in the northern part of India, in the state of Rajasthan. It is about 150km away from Japiur, which is one of the key stops in the golden triangle travel route. It is in fact one of the oldest cities in India, supposedly around 2000 years old. It is one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindu devotees. Usually the population of Pushkar sits at around 15,000 people but, during its world famous camel fair, it can bump up to 500,000. Although I never experienced it myself, the camel fair was spoken about a lot. 

“The Pushkar Camel Fair starts with buying and selling of camels & horses and by day 5 the mood starts to change towards celebration… one can enjoy the Camel Race, tribal dance to gypsy music, moustache competition and my favourite, the tug of war competition. The last day of the fair is pretty calm as all the local farmers and performers gather on the Pushkar Lake for a holy bath which is an ancient ritual which has been continued for around 2000 years.”

The essence of this celebration is community, and that is what is prioritised in Pushkar. It is a place that will trigger a culture shock in you, simply because of the peace and tranquillity. The lake that the entire village surrounds is incredibly holy, and was supposedly made by Lord Brahma – the creator of the universe. He dropped a lotus from his hand and onto the earth and the lake was formed. As you can see, Pushkar is full of history and spirituality. But what’s it like to visit as a tourist? 


The reason why I would label this place as a hippy paradise is because it hits the perfect balance between peace, minimalism and fun. The hostels we stayed at were full of hammocks, interesting people from all over the world, and easily accessible drugs. We enjoyed hashish, we cooked some ketamine and we enjoyed special lassis. My favourite hostel was appropriately called ‘Pineapple Express’ and it had some incredibly charming and kind people working there.

Each night they would pass around a bong and hang a bed sheet from a clothing line and project a film onto it. I remember watching Titanic stoned out of my mind. I also remember watching Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas after a special lassi and really tripping out. To be honest, the special lassis they served were very potent and could knock me out for 12 hours sometimes. Still, what better place to be high? Another evening my friend found a bottle of ketamax at the local pharmacy, which was easily bought, and decided to cook it on a spoon. We then sniffed it and was happy to realise that it felt just like usual ketamine. 

The Aloo Baba

In Pushkar, there is also a very special man called the Aloo Baba, or some called him the potato man. This was a highly spiritual, wise-looking guy who would sit in his temple home and do nothing but meditate and eat potatoes. We were told, early on, to go and make him  a visit. Also – we were told it was custom to bring hashish with us. So we bought some from the hostel and brought it along. Elephant Pushkar writes: 

“Aloo Baba is an elderly Indian man with a long grey beard and wise looking eyes. He is quite popular in the town being a local expert on simplicity, control, and healthy living. But what intrigues people the most is the fact that for 45 years, Baba has only eaten potatoes. Few of the curious souls have asked him the reason for this, to which he replied that he wanted to take back the ownership of his own life. Whenever he falls ill, he only uses plants and natural medicines to treat himself and drinks only chai and water.”

He was an incredibly inspiring person to sit and share hash with. He told me many things. One was to stop eating meat, which worked until the monotonous and relentless life of London somehow brought me back to eating meat soon after I returned. But he was and is someone I will never forget. I remember looking into his bedroom and seeing nothing but his bed, some religious books, and a pile of potatoes. That was all his life needed to be. 

Final Thoughts

I could go on and on about why Pushkar deserves to be described as a hippy paradise but, really, you need to go and try it out for yourself. The world has many hidden corners and delightful passages that allow you to experience peace and acceptance, it’s just about finding those places. Pushkar is definitely one of these locations.

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Indicas and Sativas are for Dummies

There are a few eternal debates intertwined with cannabis at the moment. Are the criminal justice reform victories of legalization enough to call it a win with farmers’ struggles? Does Jimi smoke the heatest heat? Do the concepts of Indicas and Sativas make sense?

While you’ll have to search your heart for the answers to the first couple of questions, when it comes to indicas and sativas, I think it’s fair to say we can do a little better. And I offer not just the idea we can do better, but a solution.

I think we should move on to referring to cannabis as Afghani or equatorial. It’s a lot more accurate representation of what 99% of the marketplace consists of. If you’re the Ruderalis guy that needs to be offended by something, go back under your bridge nobody wants your pot.

I remember when that empowered young woman of color budtender got a lot of flack for a video where she highlighted how stupid the whole indica/sativa debate was. A lot of people that look like me, well not quite the blue eyes and curls but you get my drift, were really sad she made them feel like dumb dumbs. She got a lot of shit because of their sensitivities but was spot on. You can’t even find her original post anymore and I wouldn’t share to save her any more drama and bullying. Not that she needed saving, she was a spicy meatball.

But her struggle stirred something back up in me. I’ve dealt with the same frustrations she did. I was just a pinch more chipper about it.

I’ve been working at the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley since 2009 and will still jump on the counter in the morning if an extra set of hands is needed due to a couple of callouts or whatever it may be. I turned off my frustrations early in my career on this subject. I would speak to the cannabis in four categories that were Indicas, Sativas, and hybrids leaning in either direction.

Eventually, I’d try and work a little education into the process because it all felt so bullshit.

“Hello, skinny handsome budtender. Can I get a pure sativa?”

“We making rope?!” I’d reply in a jolly reference to hemp.

When you talk about things like the Hippie Trail, Super Sativa Seed Club, and other stuff that backboned the early heatseekers’ genetics lines, a lot of it is going to fall into those major equatorial or Afghani. Even today, what’s the bulk of what we smoke? Just hybridizations of that stuff.

All these “indicas” we’re puffing on for the most part are of Afghan origin. Are there some high mountain kush phenos from the other side of the Pakistani border in the mix too for this discussion? Sure. But it’s most predominantly associated with Afghanis so it keeps it a lot more simple to just use that for the umbrella term.

As for everything else we smoke, you’ll find a lot of the genetics pools outside of the Afghani are coming from places generally close to the equator. The southern Indian city of Kanyakumari is about 560 miles north of the equator. The Thai beach town of Narathiwat is only 430 miles from the equator Even Tapachula, Mexico is only about 1500 miles from the equator.

But the system doesn’t always work, like in India. India is not far from the equator at its southern tip but the genetics it’s known for are coming from thousands of miles away in its mountain region.

It all seemingly makes sense right?

To help me articulate this great idea to the masses I knew I’d need mascots. So I created Equitorial Ed and Afghan Annie to help move the masses away from saying indica or sativa. Umbrella terminology tends never to be perfect. But in this case, I was generally satisfied with how much could be categorized within the scope of the characters.

We reached out to the Pot Prince of Bel-Air to get his take. In 1997 Todd McCormick, a medical cannabis patient and childhood cancer survivor, was arrested with 4000 plants. After serving his bid in the early 2000s he returned to the scene and in recent years has focused on preserving old-school genetics like Road Kill Skunk.

McCormick noted the question in itself is an excellent clarification that most people don’t understand but he prefers to use the term Northern to Afghani.

“The reason that I go with the word “Northern” rather than Afghani is because the Hindu Kush Mountains are freaking huge and only part of the Himalayas are located in Afghanistan,” McCormick said, “I believe that a lot of us use “Afghan” as the default genetic for all northern cannabis, but I think we are sorely mistaken.”

McCormack also spoke to the India part of the debate I brought up.

“All of the more northern varieties of cannabis from India, or dare I say Indica correctly, has the faster flowering broad leaflet, dense buds (to protect the seeds from cold), the characteristic is not only found in Afghanistan,” McCormick said, “In southern regions of India, which is still “cannabis Indica,” have the narrow leaflet equatorial/tropical, long flowering characteristic of loose spindly flowers (to be able to evaporate away high humidity) with a long flowering time.”

Keep an eye out for more great ideas from Jimi Devine in a future edition of WEIRDOS.

The post Indicas and Sativas are for Dummies appeared first on High Times.

A Brief History of Getting High

Nowadays people tend to associate the cannabis plant with Mexico, and for good reason. For decades, narcos smuggled their harvests into the United States and Europe. Along with California, Mexico is known to produce some of the finest cannabis in the world. The states of Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Sonora, and Durango—where the largest farms are located—all have climates that are perfect for cultivating cannabis: year-round temperature ranging between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with cool, long nights and low humidity.

But long before cannabis was introduced to—and became synonymous with—the New World, it was being cultivated in the lands of Central Asia. Initially, though, the cannabis or hemp plant was grown not for its leaves but for its stems, which could be processed into a strong and durable rope.

Excavations reveal that humans have been using hemp rope since the Neolithic age. The earliest evidence for burning cannabis, meanwhile, dates back to 3,500 BC, and is attributed to the Kurgans of modern-day Romania. This Proto-Indo-European tribe probably burned the plant as part of their rituals and ceremonies, a practice that spread eastward as its practitioners migrated. Why the Kurgans burned cannabis is difficult to say. They may well have discovered the plant’s psychoactive properties by accident, only to find that the smoke heightened their connection with all things spiritual.

The earliest evidence for smoking cannabis comes from the Pamir Mountains in western China. There, in 2500-year-old tombs, researchers discovered THC residue inside the burners of charred pipes that were probably used for funerary rites. (Similar pipes, dated to the 12th century BC, were later found in Ethiopia, left there by a separate culture). These devices, compared to pyres, would have yielded a much stronger high. Given their placement inside a crypt, however, it’s safe to say they were used only ceremonially, not recreationally. 

Some scholars have argued that cannabis was an important ingredient of soma, a ritual drink concocted by the Vedic Indo-Aryans of northern India. Described in the Rigveda, a collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns, soma was made by extracting juice from an unknown plant. When taken in small doses, soma was reported to induce a feeling of euphoria. In higher doses, it caused people to see hallucinations and lose their sense of time. All three of these effects have been ascribed to cannabis, but even if cannabis was not the main ingredient of soma, it may have been combined with psychedelics such as psilocybin, a.k.a. magic mushrooms.

Aside from rope, cannabis was most often processed into medicine. When the Hindus of India came down with a case of “hot breath of the gods,” healers treated the illness with cannabis smoke. The logic behind this treatment was not exactly scientific; cannabis was thought to possess healing powers because it was the favorite food of the supreme godhead Shiva, also called “Lord of Bhang.” In reality, cannabis would have been able to reduce fevers because its active ingredient, THC, works on the hypothalamus to lower body temperature.

The Assyrians used cannabis not in a medical but religious context, burning it in their temples to release an aroma that supposedly appeased their gods. Sources from the region refer to cannabis as qunubu, providing a possible origin for the word we use today. The Assyrian Empire was conceived in the 21st century BC and lasted until the 7th. During this time it engulfed much of modern-day Iraq as well as parts of Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey. Through trade and conquest, Assyrian traditions spread to neighboring societies, including the Dacians, Thracians and Scythians, the latter of which were among the first to consume cannabis in a distinctly recreational manner.

The Scythians were part of a Central Asian nomadic culture that flourished from 900 to around 200 BC. Originating in northern Siberia, Scythian tribes settled as far as the shores of the Black Sea, where they came into contact with the ancient Greeks. When Scythians died, their friends and family burned hemp inside tents to commemorate their passing. While the Kurgans and Assyrians burned their cannabis out in the open or in large indoor spaces, the Scythians were essentially hotboxing themselves at every funeral. At least, that’s the image we receive from the historian Herodotus, who wrote that “the Scythians enjoy [the hemp smoke] so much that they would howl with pleasure.” And so, the primary purpose of this ritual was to send off the dead, it clearly also served to entertain the living.

Herodotus did not live among the Scythians, but his observations seem to have been confirmed by excavations. Archeologists discovered fossilized hemp seeds at a Scythian camp in western Mongolia that were left there between the 5th and 2nd century BC.

Romans, too, consumed cannabis for their own pleasure, but not in the way you might expect. Like many societies of classical antiquity, they harvested the plant for its seeds rather than its leaves, which were discarded as a waste product. When grounded, the seeds were used in medicine. When fried, they were served up as delicacies during lavish dinner parties. Roman chefs mentioned cannabis seeds in the same breath as caviar and cakes. Galen, the famous Roman physician, wrote that they were consumed “to stimulate an appetite for drinking.” Nowadays, it’s the seeds—not the leaves—that are considered useless. However, the Romans believed they, too, had some intoxicating properties; Galen adds that, when consumed in large amounts, the seeds would send people into a “warm and toxic vapor.”

Cannabis was so widely consumed in classical antiquity that people raised the same questions and concerns we are debating today. The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides, for instance, wrote that the plant’s spherical seeds, “when eaten in excess, diminish sexual potency.” Modern-day cannabis users are all too aware of the connection, even if they don’t eat seeds. As stated by Healthline, cannabis is “often associated with side effects that may affect sexual health, including erectile dysfunction.” Similar to some psychedelics, the general sense of euphoria generated by cannabis may counteract or override the reception of sexual stimuli.

Let’s skip forward a bit. Recreational smoking became especially popular after the 9th century AD. In the Middle East and Western Asia, the followers of Islam took up the habit for the simple but somewhat amusing reason that their holy scripture, the Quran, forbade the consumption of alcohol and various other intoxicating substances. Fortunately for Muslim stoners, the Quran did not say anything about weed. Of course, they smoked not just any weed, but hashish.

Skipping forward again, this time to the 16th century—the century that cannabis arrived in the New World, and for the sole purpose of making rope no less. Actually, Americans did not start smoking weed until about one-hundred years ago, when Mexican immigrants entered the country to seek refuge from the Mexican Revolution. For decades the U.S. government turned a blind eye on this harmless, multicultural and age-old practice. However, this changed during the Great Depression, when Washington redirected the anger of unemployed workers to their Mexican brethren. After millennia of peaceful consumption, cannabis was suddenly decried as an “evil weed” and, in 1937, the U.S. became the first country in the world to criminalize cannabis on a national level.

The rest, at this point in time, has now become history as well.

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Indian Cafe in Pune Serves Hemp-Infused Food

India is moving into the hemp space—as a new eatery serving infused food in Pune demonstrates. The establishment serves sandwiches, coffee, and other foods infused with hemp. The 30 year owner of the Hemp Cafe, Amruta Shitole, is actually a serial cannabis entrepreneur, having opened the Ganja Cafe previous to this, and has been successfully selling cannabis infused food products for the last four years.

She is not the only ganjapreneur in the country of course. There have been numerous projects—and products—launched recently. One that caught the recent eye of the foreign and travel press? A new gin produced in Goa called Satiwa which calls itself a “happy high gin” because it is also infused with hemp.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What Is the State of Cannabis Reform in India?

Cannabis has been used in India for thousands of years. It has also traditionally been utilized in many different forms—from resin (called charas) to ganja (flower) and bhang (the seeds and leaves). The use of cannabis is mentioned in texts which date back to 1000 CE.

In 2019, a study conducted by the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences—an autonomous group of government public medical universities under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare—reported that about 7.2% of Indians used cannabis in the last year. In a country of 1.38 billion people this is not incredibly significant when it comes to the percentage of the population who are cannabis users. In real terms, however, this represents as many as 99 million people—or about one third of the total population of the United States.

According to the UNODC, the retail price of cannabis was lower than anywhere else in the world—about $0.10 per gram. New Delhi and Mumbai clocked in as the third and sixth highest cannabis consuming cities in the world in 2018. As of 2022, heroin and high THC cannabis are the two most used “illicit” drugs in the country. Both illegal cultivation networks and seizures are up too, which is why authorities are turning to drones for interdiction, particularly in parts of the country that are remote and hard to access by other means.

The Sleeping Cannabis Giant

While the trade and consumption of all high THC cannabis is still illegal here per the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985, there have been increasing calls for its legalization. In the meantime, intriguing projects are afoot across the country. Much like the U.S., individual Indian states have wide leeway to formulate their own laws about the cultivation, warehousing, processing, and interstate transport of the drug.

It is clear that there is huge interest in cannabis—both as a domestic product and as an export. Indian pharmaceutical firm Dr. Reddy’s actually bought a German narcotics distributor in Frankfurt in February of this year.

On the recreational side of the discussion, Mallana Cream, cultivated in a small Himalayan village to which the strain owes its name, is one of the most expensive cannabis strains in the world. Connoisseurs trek here to sample it from around the world.

As legalization comes, expect India’s most famous strain to become a highly sought, legally exported product.

In the meantime, the industry is growing here, particularly on the hemp side of the discussion. The Indian Hemp Expo, the first B2B exhibition of its kind in the country, kicked off in mid-May this year in Delhi. It was heavily attended by a wide range of firms and individuals across the burgeoning industry domestically and internationally.

India Vs. China—The New Hemp Capitals of The World?

How the industry develops here, particularly in relation to its Asian neighbor China, will be interesting to watch. At present, two Chinese provinces account for over two thirds of global hemp fiber production—and cultivation has dramatically increased year over year for the past 7 years.

However, it appears, at least so far, that China will focus more on textiles and biocomposites than edibles. For that reason, India is certainly strategically well-positioned to enter the global hemp industry across a range of products.

Of course, it won’t just end there. It never has.

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OnlyFans Appoints Cannabis Industry Insider as CEO

Amrapali “Ami” Gan, 36, will serve as Chief Executive Officer of OnlyFans, effective December 21, 2021, according to an announcement. Bloomberg first reported the change in leadership, and a representative from OnlyFans—the leading subscription-based adult content creation platform—told High Times “we can confirm the appointment of Amrapali Gan as CEO.”

Gan arrives with first-hand knowledge working in challenging industries, including the first-of-its-kind restaurant serving cannabis-infused food. Her appointment as OnlyFans CEO is causing a significant buzz in East Asian media cycles. Why? OnlyFans is home to 180 million registered users as of the time of writing—and the company says it pays out more than $5 billion to its two million content creators annually.

Before OnlyFans, Gan worked as a marketer by profession in Mumbai, India, where she was born. She started in 2007 with PepsiCo under its Marketing Leadership Program, and worked with Quest Nutrition as the Head of Brand Communications, and for Red Bull Media House focusing on Activation & Communications. 

Most recently though, Gan worked as VP of Marketing and Communications with Andrea Drummer and others to unveil the historic, first-of-its-kind restaurant, The Original Cannabis Cafe in West Hollywood, California—which was formerly known as Lowell Cafe. The cafe featured CBD, THC or both in every dish, with an emphasis on highlighting cannabis’ benefits for personal wellness. It was the first brick-and-mortar cannabis-infused restaurant, mirroring other cafe projects that claim similar “first” titles. 

OnlyFans Founder Tim Stokely will hand over the reins to Gan, as Stokely prepares “to pursue new endeavors.” He’s ready to shift gears as he steps down from his role.

“Ami has a deep passion for OnlyFans’ business and I’m passing the baton to a friend and colleague who has the vision and drive to help the organisation reach its tremendous potential,” said Stokely. “OnlyFans is still a new company and Ami brings a fresh energy and reflects who we are as a business.”

Gan served as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of OnlyFans, after joining the team in 2020, working closely with Stokely. Ami is taking over this role from Stokely, who has been at the helm since founding the company in London in 2016. He will continue with OnlyFans as an advisor guiding this leadership transition.

OnlyFans CEO Ami Gan. Photo courtesy of OnlyFans

“I am proud to assume this role. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our creator community to help them maximize control over, and monetise, their content,” said Gan. “I will be leading an exceptionally talented team at OnlyFans that is delivering a unique experience for our creators and fans. By blending state of the art technology with creative capital, we are committed to being the safest social media platform in the world.”

OnlyFans is a subscription-based social platform focusing on typically adult material. The site is inclusive of artists and content creators, giving creators the opportunity to monetise the content that they share. 

The rapidly evolving nature of social media platforms means adaptability. Citing pressure from the banks that process payments on the site, OnlyFans announced it would ban all sexually explicit content from the platform in August but quickly reversed the decision not long after. After all, many people turned to OnlyFans into a means of income during the pandemic, including single mothers.

Gan’s new job will be to ensure to promote the company’s growth and drive its vision and commitment specifically to empowering content creators. As a woman of color, she also brings a spark of diversity to OnlyFans’ leadership team.

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Celebrity Drug Bust in India Leads to Questions About Privacy & Civil Rights

It was lurid news in India when Aryan Khan — the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and a celebrity in his own right — was detained by the country’s equivalent of the DEA while on a luxury cruise ship headed from Mumbai to the party town of Goa. 

In the Oct. 2 raid, agents seized 21 grams of charas (hashish), 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of mephedrone and 22 pills of MDMA (popularly known as ecstasy). Eight of Khan’s fellow high-class revelers were also taken into custody.  

Denied Bail for 27 Days

The nine were locked up in Mumbai, and formally charged the next day with violating several provisions of the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act. This was despite the fact that no drugs were actually found on Khan. 

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) said they had been eavesdropping on his WhatsApp chats and found evidence that Khan was a “regular user of contraband,” and might even be involved in international drug trafficking. On this basis, he was denied bail.

Khan’s powerhouse dad lined up India’s former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his defense team, but the special anti-drug chamber of the Bombay High Court kept on refusing to grant bail until Oct. 30. Khan and his fellow arrestees each had to put up a bond of 100,000 rupees (approximately $1350) and surrender their passports. 

Khan could face 10 years in prison if convicted. 

And the case has spawned a secondary investigation by Mumbai prosecutors into claims that NCB agents tried to shake down Shah Rukh Khan’s manager Pooja Dadlani for a bribe to release the younger Khan without bringing charges. Dadlani has been summoned to testify in this case but has twice failed to appear. 

Other High-Profile Busts 

This is but one of several cases in the headlines now that are shaking India’s elite. Another concerns the son-in-law of none other than the chief of the NCB, Nawab Malik, who is also a minister in the government of Maharashtra state, the second most populous state in India. The son-in-law, Sameer Khan, was arrested in Jan. in connection with a raid on a private home in an upscale Mumbai suburb that turned up almost 200 kilograms of cured cannabis. 

Sameer Khan wasn’t present at the raided house, but was nonetheless promptly charged with conspiracy to traffic on the basis of his WhatsApp chats. He was finally granted bail of 50,000 rupees on Sept. 27, and faces a maximum term of 20 years if convicted. 

Interestingly, authorities said the 200 kilos were imported into the country. Although India is a major cannabis producer, with a millennia-long tradition of spiritual use of the plant, Canadian hydroponic is said to be all the rage among the country’s fashionable classes, with authorities clocking recent large seizures of the stuff.

And in yet more grist for India’s yellow-press mill, actor Armaan Kohli, the son of legendary Bollywood producer Rajkumar Kohli, was arrested by NCB agents in August for possession of 1.2 grams of cocaine. He is being denied bail by a Mumbai court while the NCB investigates trafficking charges against him — again on the basis of his WhatsApp chats.

Privacy and Civil Rights Concerns 

Although these cases have won attention because they have ensnared scions of India’s elite, they raise issues that are of concern to the common people in a country where political space has been closing under seven years of right-wing rule.  

It has been speculated that Aryan Khan was targeted because he belongs to a prominent Muslim family that has failed to line up with the Hindu-fundamentalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bollywood has been much criticized by the “Hindutva” right for supposedly eroding traditional values in much the same terms that Christian fundamentalists lambast Hollywood in the United States. 

Aryan Khan’s case has also brought public attention to how a citizen may remain locked up for a significant period without any conviction — even one from a wealthy family that can afford to put up bail. A full 70% of those behind bars in India are in pre-trial detention. At the end of 2019, more than a lakh (100,000) had been in prison awaiting trial for more than a year, The Hindu newspaper reported last year.

And then there’s the question of police surveillance in the digital age, in which every communication leaves an indelible record. A pair of Indian legal scholars, in a commentary on the Aryan Khan affair for Jurist website, write: “The case is also a fitting example of how easily a privacy infringement can be committed by authorities under the garb of national security by looking into our private chats on forums like WhatsApp… One can only hope that the Aryan Khan saga would bring much more to the fore than just another episode of Bollywood gossip.”

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