The Indian state of Rajasthan is known as the Land of Kings. Located near the border with Pakistan, it’s dotted with ancient palaces and forts. Tour groups often go as far as Jaipur, the Pink City, or venture west to Jodhpur, the Blue City. The last stop is the desert village of Jaisalmer, the Golden City, which is also an entryway to the remote parts of the Thar Desert. It’s the most densely populated desert in the world, covers more than half of the state, and is best explored by camel. And the best way to explore by camel is to start with a visit to the Bhang Shop for a cannabis edible.
To get to Jaisalmer, we took the train to the last station in the Thar Desert. After a jerky, all-night ride, we arrived at the end of the line and headed straight to the Bhang Shop.
In Jaisalmer, bhang, or weed, is far from the large buds you can find in dispensaries in North America. It’s meant for edibles, most often lassis (a drink made with yogurt and spices) or cookies. The edibles are an important part of Hindu culture. They’re most associated with Holi, the holiday celebrating the arrival of spring, but are consumed year round. Some sadhus, nomadic holy men who give up worldly possessions, consume weed daily as an edible or smoke it as hash. Cannabis is illegal in India, but a loophole in the law allows for products made from marijuana leaves that are collected from wild cannabis plants. There are government-authorized and taxed shops in Rajasthan and a few other states, making it easy enough for anyone interested to buy. At Jaisalmer’s Bhang Shop, just outside the city walls, the edibles are said to be the key to a comfortable camel ride deep into the Thar Desert.
The Bhang Shop is a bare room — it’s little more than a concrete stall next to an Italian restaurant. In it, there are a few bags of pre-packed cannabis cookies and there’s a busy counter where lassi is sold. The shop might not win any Cannabis Cups, but it’s still likely the best government-authorized marijuana dispenser between Prague and Australia. Dr. Bhang, the shop’s herbalist, is on hand to recommend proper dosage. By his advice, the cookies aren’t too strong, and are just enough to get you in the desired mood. One cookie is enough for a tickle, and two enough for a slap. Three will knock you right off your camel. He warned of the “strong lassi,” a drink with enough weed to be classified as, “full power, 24-hour, no toilet, no shower.”
We tried a fragrant and cool lassi, and took some cookies for our upcoming desert camel sojourn. The cookies were miserably chalky, but promised to turn our camel ride into a flying carpet. It’s best to wash them down with a weak lassi — you don’t want to overdo it.
Properly “medicated,” we started our camel journey into the desert. We passed sandstone villages filled with people who hydrate themselves with water gathered from oasis springs. Along the way, we also met a vendor on a camel who was selling cold beer to tourists from a backpack. Our ride ended when the day ended, and we slept under the stars on a lonely dune. On an empty corner of the dunes, we finally found something akin to solitude, and the bhang conducted the music to which the stars danced. Bhang in the desert is better than hydro on the couch.
After spending a day on a camel, we were so sore that we walked bowlegged for several days. We couldn’t have done it without the anesthesia of the Bhang Shop’s lawn-clipping flavored cookies. Case in point: Others who attempted the ride without the use of bhang had to get off and walk.