North Korea: Marijuana Is Legal And Available At The Food Market
By Steve Elliott
There may not be much freedom in the totalitarian Communist dictatorship of North Korea, but they have one freedom that most in the United States don't -- the freedom to openly buy and smoke marijuana.
Cannabis, or "ip tambae" ("leaf tobacco"), is reportedly grown openly on the roadsides and smoked on the streets of Pyongyang, reports Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku. But local North Korean tourist guides normally won't let Western tourists see that side of Korean culture.
Freelance writer Darmon Richter recently wrote on The Bohemian Blog about his experiences buying and smoking weed in North Korea earlier this year. Cannabis is used by the working class there both for its medicinal effects and to unwind and relax.
Richter was able, with the help of a North Korean intelligence officer, to get into a food market at which locals shop, but where visitors aren't allowed. "We were just walking past the tobacco sellers when we spotted another stall ahead, piled high with mounds of green rather than brown plant matter," Richter writes. "It turned out to be exactly what we first suspected: a veritable mountain of marijuana."
After buying the cannabis, Richter bought rolling paper at a tobacco seller and and started "rolling up and lighting comically oversized joints" in the middle of the market.
"In the name of scientific enquiry, it seemed appropriate to buy some... and the little old ladies running the stall were happy to load us up with plastic bags full of the stuff, charging us roughly £0.50 each," Richter writes.
Cannabis isn't even considered a "drug" in North Korea, according to Richter. It is grown in large plantations, and also grows wild abundantly on the Korean peninsula.
Richter's Korean guides seemed a little embarrassed that his group had discovered the abundant legal marijuana available there. "They seemed to be ever-so-slightly uncomfortable with our discovery of their special plant; no doubt aware of its legal status in our own countries, it was their job to make sure we saw a positive representation of the DPRK," he writes. "I don't think they had planned on chaperoning a giggling pack of red-eyed imbeciles around their country's proud military monuments."
North Korean marijuana apparently isn't very potent. "This is cannabis which has been grown naturally in mountainside fields," Richter writes. "While the flavor's all there, it'll take a few well-packed joints before one starts to feel anything approaching the effect typical of a Western crop. That said, at prices like these, some might not consider this a problem."
(Photo of North Korean marijuana bought at food market: Darmon Richter/The Bohemian Blog)