Cannabis culture in the United Kingdom may be repressed, but at least we enjoy freedom of speech. Something that doesn’t exist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - aka North Korea - where even the slightest word out of line can land you a lifetime’s hard labour.
Or worse, a sticky end at the mercy of an anti-aircraft gun.
North Korea’s reputation as a closed and oppressive state is well established.As a result, you’d expect such a regime to take the most incredibly hardline stance against cannabis. If you can’t even speak your mind, surely you can’t expect to get away with getting blazed…right?
Or at least, that’s what hearsay tells us about North Korea’s surprising cannabis culture.
Fact or Fiction?
Given that North Korea isn’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to freedom of information, we’ve still little to no idea what actually goes on within its borders.If you visit the country from overseas, you’re followed and monitored from entry to exit. If you live in North Korea, you have no Internet, no access to international media sources and no legal right to share information with the outside world.
Not only this, but the ‘official’ information shared internationally by the North Korean government itself is usually about as factual as a fairytale.
Nevertheless, there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that North Korea has a surprisingly relaxed policy on cannabis. Back in 2010, it was reported (unofficially, of course) that the North Korean government had begun a sizeable crackdown on methamphetamines. Not only could the same not be said for cannabis, but a source from within stated that North Korea doesn’t even classify cannabis as a drug.
This startling claim was reinforced further over subsequent years, both by evidence from visitors and the accounts of defectors alike. If their stories are anything to go by, buying enormous bags of cannabis in rural markets in North Korea is as easy as buying a bag of potatoes. Whether or not cannabis is legal at an official level remains unknown, but it seems to be a general consumer product that’s used routinely by millions of North Koreans.
In fact, it’s also been suggested that the country’s army is provided with on-tap cannabis to keep its soldiers happy and relaxed. There’s not a great deal the general populace can get hold of in North Korea with ease - cannabis apparently being one exception to the rule.
A New Cannabis Tourism Haven?
If all this is to be believed, this would make North Korea a candidate for the world’s next big cannabis tourism hotspot. Unfortunately, there are two reasons why this probably isn’t going to be the case.
For one thing, it’s widely rumoured that the ‘cannabis’ being grown, sold and consumed in huge quantities in North Korea isn’t actually THC-heavy pot.Instead, it’s the kind of low-potency hemp that isn’t going to get anyone high - irrespective of how much you smoke. Realistically, a country that doesn’t exactly celebrate free thinking and freedom of speech isn’t likely to encourage its citizens and its soldiers to get baked on a daily basis.
In addition, actually getting into and around North Korea as a tourist remains difficult and expensive. Not to mention, somewhat restrictive - given the fact that you’re literally placed under an official government microscope from start to finish. Enough to make you paranoid enough as it is, without a carrier bag full of pot on your person.
For the time being at least, therefore, you can probably scratch North Korea off your cannabis visitor list.