Newsbrief: Afghan Marijuana Trade Back in Business 9/13/02

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The legendary Afghani strains of cannabis are about to flower again in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and the plains of Mazar-e-Sharif, the Associated Press reported this week. Afghanistan is the home of the indica cultivars that form the backbone of most of the hybrid strains now producing the world's most potent and sought after weed. Marijuana cultivation was banned under the Taliban, but Afghani peasants have returned to the lucrative trade once again.

"Fields of sturdy marijuana plants, some nearly seven feet tall, line part of the main road leading west from Mazar-e-Sharif, the biggest city in northern Afghanistan," the AP reported, adding that the crop would likely go untouched because the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai and the United Nations are concentrating on opium eradication, though to little effect (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/251.html#secondcrop).

The Afghan government has warned peasants not to plant cannabis, but the peasants have other imperatives. "Maybe it isn't good for our people, but we have to do it because of our economic problems," one farmer in the village of Khana Abad told the AP, adding that he had invested heavily in his plot prior to the warnings.

"The farmers have planted this stuff like smugglers," complained Saheed Azizullah Hashmi, head of the Balkh province agriculture department. "We don't know how much there is out there." Hashmi also attempted to link cannabis to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but the AP gently scoffed, noting that "marijuana plants thrived well before they held sway over much of Afghanistan, and local commanders with large land holdings reportedly benefit from its cultivation."

Indeed, Balkh province is under the rule of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the burly warlord accused of numerous war crimes over the past decades who is now a high-ranking member of the US-backed Karzai government.

"When we're ready to sell, people in big cars will come from the bazaar in town," another farmer told the AP. "We don't know who they are, we just want the money."

While Afghani cannabis may be best known in US marijuana circles for its narcotic indica high, most Afghan cannabis is made into hashish and serves both local markets and weed-lovers from Central Asia to Western Europe.

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