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Struggle is the enemy, Weed is the remedy: Marijuana in North Korea
January 16, 2013 10:54 AM   Subscribe

You might be surprised by what we’re about to say: the most tight-lipped, conservative and controlling country in the world is also a weed-smoker’s paradise
posted by PeterMcDermott (73 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Two words: Dorito Bomb.
posted by jquinby at 10:57 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hear vodka was pretty cheap in Stalinist Russia during The Prohibition too.....
posted by lalochezia at 10:58 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


DO YOU WANT TO JOIN US IN NORTH KOREA IN 2013? REGISTER YOUR INTEREST BY CLICKING HERE!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Despite the North Korean government’s deadly serious stance on the use and distribution of hard drugs like crystal meth (which has its own inauspicious legacy in the North)

On the contrary, in exchange for hard currency, North Korea is a major supplier of methamphetamine in Asia (notably Japan). I wouldn't be surprised if North Korean product is being dealt and sold in Europe and North America.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If only they had just hashed it out before dividing the country in half.
posted by hellomina at 11:02 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I refuse to believe that attitudes in another culture around this random plant that grows in ditches are not politicized in the way I am accustomed to!
posted by threeants at 11:06 AM on January 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


No wonder they're all so hungry.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:07 AM on January 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


North Korea: not only are you forced to live in an oppressive dictatorship, but all you can get is skunk ditch weed.
posted by naju at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


But you can have all the no munchies you want.
posted by forgetful snow at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Could be worse. As eluded too in TFA there are persistant rumors that a double digit percent of NKs are on meth, and in fact they export much of China's supply.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:18 AM on January 16, 2013


around this random plant that grows in ditches

I love this kind of thing the most: it grows in ditches so worrying about its effects is nonsensical. I mean, shit flows in ditches too, but governments in many parts of the world regulate shit to keep it from doing so. And shit COMES FROM YOUR OWN BODY!!!!

[This comment is in no way an endorsement of anti-pot laws or panics, just a comment on the reasoning behind some moves for pot-decriminalization.]
posted by OmieWise at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


In North Korea, you don’t smoke weed purely to get high and laugh at your own hand, you do it to save money and as a break from the ubiquitous cheap local cigarettes that do more damage than good.

This is called "smoking rope" and it's what capitalists would do during those periodic pot famines that would occur after a big bust by the police state.
posted by three blind mice at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2013


moar like Kim Bong Ill amirite?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


It's Kim Bong Un now.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


I can't wait until we can have a conversation about marijuana without having to talk over a tittering mass of lazy stoner jokes.
posted by gilrain at 11:30 AM on January 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


Kim Bong On, dude.
posted by acb at 11:30 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I can't wait until we can have a conversation about marijuana without the having to talk over a tittering mass of lazy stoner jokes.

It's one thing for lazy internet poster lulz, but I'd love it if the major news outlets would refrain from making pun headlines.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


gilrain, I'm not being snarky, but why not just raise the subject you want to talk about?
posted by forgetful snow at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also,

No wonder they're all so hungry.

Seriously?
posted by threeants at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


That's what you get with a tin-pot dictator.
posted by Kabanos at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2013


The DPRK is also surprisingly open about sex. No doubt mainly to encourage production of new workers.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2013


This is ditch weed we're talking about. I doubt that it would get your average American pot smoker off at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought The Atlantic said they were going to stop hosting sponsored content.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Soma-stic!
posted by KingEdRa at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is ditch weed we're talking about. I doubt that it would get your average American pot smoker off at all.

Yeah, just speculating on my part, but if the weed was really good and started inspiring all sorts of countercultural sentiments or crazy street art and what not, then maybe the authorities might not be so permissive.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:48 AM on January 16, 2013


Burhanistan: " Yeah, just speculating on my part, but if the weed was really good and started inspiring all sorts of countercultural sentiments or crazy street art and what not, then maybe the authorities might not be so permissive."

Bad weed keeps 'em docile.
posted by zarq at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2013


Thank god we can all take a laugh off of the ongoing human rights abuse that is North Korea. God knows I couldn't have made it through my day without this.

But seriously, can we start labeling these stories as 'wacky North Korea'? I'm pretty sure this is becoming a thing where shitty journalism gets a pass because of the way it paints North Korea as being a hokey dokey place that's really not that bad.
posted by dubusadus at 12:03 PM on January 16, 2013


I hear vodka was pretty cheap in Stalinist Russia during The Prohibition too.....

Are you just noting a parallel? I see the axe, but I can't tell if it's being ground.
posted by cmoj at 12:09 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this is becoming a thing where shitty journalism gets a pass because of the way it paints North Korea as being a hokey dokey place that's really not that bad.

On the flip side of the coin, there are people who would say about this exact same story, "I'm pretty sure this is becoming a thing where shitty journalism gets a pass because of the way it paints North Korea as being a horrible place that's even worse than we thought."
posted by Etrigan at 12:09 PM on January 16, 2013


Thank god we can all take a laugh off of the ongoing human rights abuse that is North Korea.

What do you propose doing with this information?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2013


An internet petition will surely spark reform!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


But seriously, can we start labeling these stories as 'wacky North Korea'? I'm pretty sure this is becoming a thing where shitty journalism gets a pass because of the way it paints North Korea as being a hokey dokey place that's really not that bad.

... what? The reading I took of this article was a possible explanation for why the psychotic government of North Korea remains in power, and why the people of North Korea are not driven to mass uprising to alter the blasted hellscape in which they live.
posted by kafziel at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute, northern California isn't all that conservative. And it isn't a country yet is it?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2013


OH COME ON the idea of such a repressive regime as a stoner's paradise is as funny as fuck.

Now, there's a great discussion to be had about how to de-isolate NDK and help its people, but this is like finding Cylons don't make their beds in the morning, or something.
posted by angrycat at 12:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surely all the CIA needs to do is fly over and drop autoflowering superskunk seeds everywhere, then the NK army will be stoned as fuck and the axis of evil will break apart.
posted by marienbad at 12:30 PM on January 16, 2013


Except that when you get the munchies, there's nothing to eat.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:30 PM on January 16, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: "Thank god we can all take a laugh off of the ongoing human rights abuse that is North Korea.

What do you propose doing with this information?
"

Kim 2013!!!! WE COULD MAKE IT GO VIRAL AND LIBERATE THE KOREANS FROM THE OPPRESSIVE DRUG LORDS!
posted by symbioid at 12:30 PM on January 16, 2013


*symbiod runs around naked and beats the shit out of the ground*
posted by forgetful snow at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


No wonder they're all so hungry.

Seriously?


Uh, no. Was that not obvious? I was using humour to underscore the fact that people in North Korea are literally starving to death, and that it is no kind of "paradise."
posted by Sys Rq at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2013


This is why they call it dope.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2013


One thing you can take a note of, though, is the mention of lighting up after a hard day's labor.

This is one refrain that you will note time and again. Jamaicans working in the field lighting a spliff to deal with the hardship of manual labor, take away some of the pain, let you get through the day.

Look at the traditional use of coca in societies where it was historically present, and how it alleviated pain and helped them get through the working day, as well as be more efficient at higher elevations.

Look at opiate use by Chinese labor on the US Railroads.

Look at how doped up the (white) US labor force in the late 1800s when we had things like legal cocaine toothdrops, and heroin for baby coughs and all the other assorted drugs to deal with a shitty life.

As we offshored more and more heavy labor and have more machinery to help reduce some of the drudgery it neatly went hand in hand with suppression of drugs in the US. Whether there is a causal link one way or another I wouldn't dare to know for sure. But I have no doubt that there is quite a historical trend for the laboring classes to self-medicate when the work is so dreary and dull and painful and long and miserable.

Shit, all we get to self medicate with now is alcohol, and that's just as bad if not worse than some of these drugs.
posted by symbioid at 12:36 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Funny coincidence, I'm reading a book about the Korean War and it mentions how marijuana grows wild in North Korea and how prisoners of the North Koreans and Chinese used it to take the edge off that whole being-a-POW thing. One source says:
...the Turks and the Hispanic US Army prisoners discovered marijuana plants growing wild on the mountainside when out on wood-foraging expeditions, and at least some of the British took up the habit of smoking the dried leaves..."They used to call it the giggling weed," an 8th Hussars trooper recalled of those who indulged, "because there was a lot of laughter and silly nonsense."
Another source:
I don't know how to judge marijuana, but the stuff I had, well, you didn't give a dang whether anything happened that day. We'd pass that joint around and everybody would lie there laughing and hollering. You'd never know we were in a POW camp.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


North Korea is missing an opportunity for peaceful hard currency earnings here.
posted by humanfont at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reading I took of this article was a possible explanation for why the psychotic government of North Korea remains in power, and why the people of North Korea are not driven to mass uprising to alter the blasted hellscape in which they live.

posted by kafziel at 12:20 PM on January 16 [+] [!]

That's the reading you took, but it's not the reading most of the commenters took...

I'm all for some lighter news about North Korea every once and a while, if only because yr average bored office worker will actually read it. But there should be something even in the "funny" articles to remind you that really, NK is a terrible place.
posted by subdee at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2013


... what? The reading I took of this article was a possible explanation for why the psychotic government of North Korea remains in power, and why the people of North Korea are not driven to mass uprising to alter the blasted hellscape in which they live.

Yeah, their one source was from NK Radio which states

"The North Korean government has never controlled the use of opium or marijuana. Rather, they encouraged opium farms on abandoned land in order to earn foreign currency. Marijuana is cultivated along railroad tracks across the nation because it holds the railroads tight, with its deep roots, and contains oils that can be used for industrial purpose. Many gardeners grow opium in their own gardens to be used as a treatment for colitis or diarrhea."

The idea that it's the marijuana and opium that is keeping them down pretty much disregards the idea of how most modern states remain in power (think martial, not mary jane) and kind of just shits on the idea of the North Korean people as having some amount of agency in a horribly repressive regime.

"What do you propose doing with this information?"

It'd be nice if the journalists who cover this sort of thing stopped treating North Korea as the GOOFY SCOOP OF THE WEEK and included some contemporary news about North Korea but I guess that'd be asking too much. The idea is that MetaFilter might be a better filter for this sort of thing came to mind but hey, since I guess marijuana is a contentious political issue this season we might as well mash these two things up because everybody loves a good joke that advances their political agenda.

Speaking of jokes that advance political agendas, I just came up with this in the shower:

What do you call one dead kid?

A tragic accident.

What do you call 20 dead kids?

A good soundbite.

What do you call 176 dead kids?

Foreign policy.

I'll be here all week, folks.
posted by dubusadus at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing this is not the best country in which to get paranoid
posted by mattoxic at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Interesting juxtaposition of factoids:

In the land of the free people, have served ten years in (Texas) prisons for possessing a few marijuana seeds. Marijuana enjoys legal kinship to such drugs as heroine and cocain. The weed sold in the US is some of the most potent known, due to several decades of selective growing. Anti-marijuana discourse is characterized by dogma.

In (possibly) the most rigid dictatorial country in the world marijuana grows wild, and is openly smoked. The weed in North Korea is (surmised to be) a comparatively low-quality herb. Anti-weed smoking notions in NK seem to be concerned mainly that one doesn't use newspaper pages that have pictures of famous people on them to roll the splibs.
posted by mule98J at 12:46 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It'd be nice if the journalists who cover this sort of thing stopped treating North Korea as the GOOFY SCOOP OF THE WEEK and included some contemporary news about North Korea but I guess that'd be asking too much.

This could be said of Western foreign reporting of any country that does not speak English.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on January 16, 2013


This isn't much more than a mildly interesting story of how marijuana is viewed differently in the culture there. There's not a great deal of news from there because it's so closed, and just about anything unusual will be reported on.
But it's not a big deal, really. It doesn't actually keep people docile, that's just silly; it's just a way for some poor people to unwind a little.
posted by Red Loop at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It'd be nice if the journalists who cover this sort of thing stopped treating North Korea as the GOOFY SCOOP OF THE WEEK and included some contemporary news about North Korea but I guess that'd be asking too much.

If only there were a way for you to create a post that incorporates contemporary news about North Korea...
posted by Etrigan at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2013


It doesn't actually keep people docile, that's just silly

Marijuana totally does do that, though. Not to mention opium; the phrase "opiate of the masses" isn't based on nothing. (Which isn't to say the NK Gov't must therefore be allowing it on that basis, however.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


DO YOU WANT TO JOIN US IN NORTH KOREA IN 2013? REGISTER YOUR INTEREST BY CLICKING HERE!
I (seriously) accidentally clicked on that. Now I have a kind of vague, inchoate unease, like I'm going to be kidnapped and brought to North Korea. If a video is later released with me spouting anti-Metafilter propaganda, please just know that's not really me, man; that's not really me.
posted by Flunkie at 1:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]



Sys Rq: "Marijuana totally does do that, though. Not to mention opium; the phrase "opiate of the masses" isn't based on nothing. (Which isn't to say the NK Gov't must therefore be allowing it on that basis, however.)"

It does have calming and de-motivating effects, sure; but I can't believe that most of the populace is walking around in such a stoned stupor that it's the reason that there hasn't been a revolution.
posted by Red Loop at 1:17 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next on the No Spin Zone, BillO points out that liberal pinheads want to be more like North Korea. His viewers nod in unison, except for the tiny handful under 70 years old, none of whom know what North Korea is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:34 PM on January 16, 2013


Yeah that's daft and offensive to think weed is suppressing their will and I say that as a dude who has kind of held himself back because weed makes my tedious job easier to decompress from at the end of the day. As a daily dank smoker in Colorado NK seems pretty fucking far from "stoner paradise" and I find that implication offensive too. Heh.
posted by lordaych at 1:35 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's kinda hilarious that we still have these "hippie dippy" associations with weed. If it were legal, you'd find out exactly how many decidedly non-hippie people -- including (gasp!) Republicans -- smoke it.

Anyway, just because we had the 60s and people in the 60s did drugs doesn't mean that widespread marijuana use would turn people into bohemians. TFA refers to poor, tired workers using it in their off hours to ease their sore muscles. I find this completely believable. You ever smoke a bowl after a good, solid workout? Feels fucking great. The combination of THC and endorphins produces a mellow, almost opiate-like high, best followed by a hot shower, a steak, and sex.

Or so I'm told.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:37 PM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well that's the first thing I've read in a while that actually makes me want to work out.
posted by naju at 1:50 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can see the Drug Warriors using this to claim that legalized pot will turn this country into North Korea. Sigh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2013


We're probably safe. A Drug Warrior would have to be on some pretty strong drugs to suggest that legal pot will turn the US into NK.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 PM on January 16, 2013


I can easily imagine certain American academics using this to make a point that , in some ways, DPRK is freer than the US, so it's all equivalent...
posted by Bwithh at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2013


From all the hateful propaganda aimed at North Korea by the US, I am guessing that North Korea is a paradise, period.
posted by telstar at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2013


Here is what we know: 1. Kim Jong Il was once the world's largest consumer of Hennessey, buying $700K per year. 2. Weed is completely legal in NK and grows on the side of the road. From this, we can conclude that Tupac is alive and living in North Korea. Juche Life!
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:42 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is this even in the same ballpark as the hydroponically, heavily fertilized, intensively cultivated weed consumed in North America and other parts of the world?

Probably not. It's just a cheap and readily available substitute for tobacco. It's akin to ersatz coffee brewed from roasted barley.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:44 PM on January 16, 2013


Wait, one more: they smoke ditch weed rolled in newspaper!

That's not freedom. That's....that's...just...wrong.
posted by mule98J at 5:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, one more: they smoke ditch weed rolled in newspaper!

They haven't gotten Western weed technology yet over there. I treated some South Korean tourists once to some of Austin's finest during SXSW, and they were so freaked out they wandered off to God knows where. They may still be here. "Nothing like this at home!!!"
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:16 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this even in the same ballpark as the hydroponically, heavily fertilized, intensively cultivated weed consumed in North America and other parts of the world?

Not remotely. Especially since they're just smoking the leaves and not the giant hairy buds like we get over here. It's your grandfather's reefer, basically.

It's just a cheap and readily available substitute for tobacco.


In form, yes, but in function it'd be more of a down-the-pub substitute.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 PM on January 16, 2013


Shit, all we get to self medicate with now is alcohol, and that's just as bad if not worse than some of these drugs.

Plus caffeine to keep us awake at work, of course.
posted by Kit W at 4:34 AM on January 17, 2013


Much is thereby explained.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2013


Rolling with newspaper? Qucik, let's take up a collection to ship them some Bibles!
posted by Goofyy at 12:09 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't owning a Bible get them in a lot of trouble?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 PM on January 17, 2013


Marijuana totally does do that, though. Not to mention opium; the phrase "opiate of the masses" isn't based on nothing.

Woah there, let's get some Marx all up ins.
The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Religion is the opiate of the masses because it's a painkiller which dulls the pain of the misery of life, not because it keeps people quiet and docile.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 PM on January 17, 2013


Religion is the opiate of the masses because it's a painkiller which dulls the pain of the misery of life, not because therefore it keeps people quiet and docile.

FTFY.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 PM on January 17, 2013


I wish the US religious right *were* quiet and docile. I like them much better that way.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2013


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