Is weed legal in North Korea?

Is weed legal in North Korea? Weird World Wire put on our North Korea business consultancy hat and went to explore.

One might argue that there are bigger issues currently doing the rounds when it comes to North Korea, such as if it has coronavirus, the blowing up of joint-liaison office and of course etc constant threat of thermonuclear war. At Weird World Wire we’re happy to lets the other cats busy themselves with that stuff, whilst we tackle the important issues.

The Origins of Weed in North Korea

The original story about North Korea’s nascent attempts at being the New Amsterdam (not to be confused with New York) stem from a 2013 story appeared in Business Insider. You can read that story here, alternatively, if you don’t want to read 5000 words, we will do a lazy summary.

To summarize – the author has traveled to the Rason SEZ with a travel agency whereby on visiting a private market the author and his group had discovered big bags of green weed looking tobacco for sale for around 50 cents. Group purchased said bag, some North Korean rizla and went to get their bake on. All good so far right?

Like most stories about North Korea it went gangbusters newspapers were falling over themselves to reprint a variation of the story, pot fans were touting North Korea as a haven for those who like to get baked and as usual no one really checked the source material…..

Over the years the story took on a life of its own and it is really not uncommon to have people present this interest “fact” to you, but what is the actual truth?

Kim Jong-Un in a field

Got Hemp?

North Korea has a lot of hemp and it indeed grows across the country, particularly in the North-East where the weather conditions are good for it. The original story came from a group that had visited the Rason Special Economic Zone of North Korea.

The Rason SEZ

If you’ve not heard of the Rason SEZ it was the first “special economic zone” of North Korea and in some respects was supposed to be its answer to Shenzhen in China. A North Korean business consultancy might tell you otherwise, but Rason isn’t Shenzhen.

Rason is though the only place in North Korea that can be visited “visa free” (although you still need a travel permit) and also the only place in North Korea where you visitors can visit a private market.

Now whilst this might not sound all that impressive, I mean you can visit private markets in pretty much every country in the world, this is a big deal in North Korea. Being a socialist state private markets were previously banned in the country, but following the economic and political collapse of the former Eastern Bloc, they became a main stay of the countries economy. Currently whilst they exist throughout the DPRK in Rason they get to “officially” exist due to the mixed economy of the SEZ.

A visit here means you get to buy what the locals buy and if we are to believe the author of the story this meant big bags of weed. If said statement were true it would mean that the North Koreans of Rason were not only getting backed, but at 50 cents an ounce, or so were doing it cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Truth isn’t always as interesting as fiction……

Despite what you might think a hemp plant and a marijuana plant are not one and the same. To read about the whole science about what makes them different check here, or hold on for the budget WWW explanation.

What’s the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

“Hemp” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content (by dry weight). “Marijuana” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight) and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user.

To summarise THC is the shit that gets you stoned. Smoking hemp is like drinking really low strength lager, and we do not mean Chinese low strength, we mean like kids shandy drinks. Pretty much no matter how fast you smoke it, the effects would wear off before you’d be able to smoke enough to get you anywhere near a level you might call stoned.

Therefore asking if weed is legal in North Korea is quite a different to whether hemp is legal, or not.

Why Do They Smoke Hemp in North Korea?

Again it did not take all that much investigation to get to the bottom of this. Tobacco is more expensive than Hemp leaves, the private markets sell consumer goods, hemp is sold as a “poor mans tobacco” as whilst it is not going to get you high it still has some kind of affect, much like tobacco.

So North Korea Isn’t a Stoner Haven?

No it is not and if you try to sneak drugs into North Korea make no mistake you’re gonna have a bad time. Do not try and smoke weed in North Korea.

And whilst no one can predict the future, not even us smart guys at Weird World Wire, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say don’t expect to see the leadership of North Korea on the cover of high times any time soon.

Is weed legal in North Korea? No, no it is not.

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