Kim Jong Un - North Korea Cannabis
North Korea isn't all bad. Photo: Scott Johnson

North Korea isn’t all bad. Photo: Scott Johnson

North Korea may bring to mind the likelihood of war, a crazy dictator who murders family members and that not-very-funny film about a plot to kill him. On the other hand, marijuana plants grow by the roadside and experts on the country believe that its government and citizens view cannabis as more acceptable than cancer sticks and alcohol. The smell of cannabis smoke is often encountered in public places. Termed “the special plant,” it is viewed as a medicine. In the local tongue, it is called yoksam. Might this be a good reason to move to North Korea?

While there are signs stating, “any drug users will face a firing squad should they be caught,” this only applies to meth. One anonymous source remarked that Kim Jong Un doesn’t regard cannabis as a drug. Cannabis is not technically legal, but its prohibition is not enforced: one blogger wrote of buying a bag at an indoor market and smoking it at outdoor parks, monuments, restaurants and bars. He even shared some with his party’s minder. It took not many joints for him to forget the prospect of nuclear war, which was seeming to be a possibility at that point in 2013. This would make it easier to move to the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

Marijuana is sold by teenagers in malls or in pubs and clubs. It costs only a dollar (65 pence) for 30 grams (one ounce), making it a popular alternative to cigarettes, costing less and being nicer, that is much-loved by the lower classes. People tend to prefer to grow opium as it will earn more foreign currency and can be used to treat colitis.

Ip dambae – “leaf tobacco” – is often mistaken for cannabis. It is a concoction of herbs and uncured tobacco leaves and is commonly sold at public markets as another cheapo alternative to cigarettes. It looks somewhat similar to cannabis but doesn’t get you high.

Joints are rolled from old newspapers, usually the Rodong Sinmun, but it’s best to not use photos of the Supreme Leader or his family, as this causes offence. Manual labourers use cannabis as a pain reliever, muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory agent. It is reported to be particularly popular among young soldiers. You might wish to move to North Korea because it is, in this respect, freer than the United States, where there was one marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds in 2012 and $3.6bn is spent fighting the herb each year.

Cannabis in North Korea has been in the news lately after the Slovenian avant-garde industrial group, Laibach, became the first ever Western rock group to perform in the capital of Pyongyang: mostly tunes from The Sound of Music. Five handlers were assigned to the 30-strong group, but Rolling Stone magazine described them as “all very helpful and not at all a nuisance.” Ivo Saliger, the group’s leader, found traffic policewomen to be “big fun to observe” and praised the local beer, which is regarded as a soft drink. Articles mention that, in the country, cannabis is “essentially legal.”

The only problem is that North Korean weed isn’t very strong and a few Js would be necessary to get you stoned, but given its cost, that’s perfectly feasible. Obviously, you should move to North Korea.

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