In the 1960s, Westerners pilgrimaged to Nepal for its cannabis and the region’s so-called hippie trail. But King Birendra outlawed trade of the plant in the ’70s, with a complete ban of cannabis soon after. Now, decades later, Nepal is seeing a movement toward acceptance, and a man named Madan is at the forefront of this green wave, calling himself the country’s first weed influencer. Sean Williams tags along with Madan on a journey from Kathmandu to Thawang to see firsthand how the criminalization of cannabis has affected the lives of people who live there, and to learn what Madan envisions for Nepal’s future if cannabis were legalized.

Nepal laid the foundations for its cannabis tourism industry in 1961, taxing and licensing drug sales from Kathmandu stores that became the talk of the hippie trail. The Eden Hashish Center, the Cabin, and Central Hashish Store, among others, lined a skinny thoroughfare named Jhochhen Tole, or “Freak Street.” A couple of bucks was enough to eat, sleep, shower, and get wasted on some of the best pot on the planet. Each outlet curated a psychedelic menu of fresh buds, brownies, opium-laced joints called “Chinese Crackers,” and, of course, charas, which was typically packaged as a conker-size “temple ball” of hand-rolled resin. “Anyone who has smoked Nepalese hash will never forget their first time,” wrote the American weed trafficker Joseph R. Pietri. “I remember mine: the rush was so strong I had to sit on the floor and hold on.”

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.