Marijuana & Viet Nam

Here’s a topic I have yet to address on the hallowed pages of this venerable blog. I’m confident that it encompasses the holy trinity of the main themes, Information, Insights & (Frequently) Intrigue, the trifecta of blogging, so to speak. You be the judge.

Why Not?

In response to an article about the tax revenue that results from marijuana sales, medical and recreational, in a growing number of US states and countries around the world, I wrote the following to a friend about its potential as a cash crop in Viet Nam: Perfect climate, soil, etc. Just need the right strains. Export to Canada, Europe, many US states. It’s a no-brainer!

His enthusiastic response: Absolutely! And it’s a two-track opportunity. Not only cannabis (and VN was always well respected for some of the best strains during U.S. military occupation days) but also less controversial hemp with remarkable industrial properties and utilities that make it one of the best crops in the world (shoes, shirts, paper, rope, an endless list of products). It grows three times faster than trees and has many more applications. Brilliant U.S. leadership built on a false ‘drug war’ caused it to be stopped in many places in the world decades ago, because of people like political grandstander Joe Biden who couldn’t distinguish between a rope and a doobie.

As you probably know, Viet Nam has strict drug laws. Cannabis is illegal. You can’t grow, possess, or sell it. If you’re charged with possession, you may be able to pay your way out of it, if you’re a foreigner. For growing and dealing, expect a prison sentence and then deportation. The penalty for distribution of the harder stuff like heroin, cocaine, or meth – above a certain minimal amount – is death by lethal injection for those convicted, regardless of nationality.

I’ve seen how flexible the government can be in its search for solutions to a variety of problems. For example, a delegation traveled to Amsterdam to learn about the results of legalizing and regulating prostitution. It had yet to do so but it shows that people in power are thinking about it and willing to learn more.

The Ultimate Cash Crop

Why not legalize marijuana? Here’s a long list of countries in which it is legal and that represent potential markets for this export of this cash crop. It’s legal in Canada for both recreational and medical use. Within the US, recreational use is legal is 19 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC); medical use is legal in 39 states and D.C. Marijuana cultivation and sales is a multibillion dollar industry that will only continue to expand globally in the coming years.

As mentioned, Viet Nam is ideally suited in terms of climate and soil to cultivate various strains of marijuana on a year-round basis. It’s a win-win proposition for the government. It could become a major contributor to the nation’s GDP and a significant source of tax revenue.

Next Steps

Cannabis is not new to Viet Nam or Southeast Asian. It was supposedly introduced to the region around the 16th century, and used in medicine and cooking.

The legalization of marijuana could proceed in three phases: 1) medical use; and 2) consumption by tourists in specific areas; 3) export; and 4) purchase by the general population.

The first is the easiest to control and the most urgent need. It also aligns nicely with Viet Nam’s use of traditional, including herbal, medicine. Marijuana is a complex plant with 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, each one of which has a different effect on the body. Research is currently being conducted into its use to treat the following diseases and conditions:

Alzheimer’s disease
Appetite loss
Cancer
Crohn’s disease
Diseases effecting the immune system like HIV/AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Eating disorders such as anorexia
Epilepsy
Glaucoma
Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Multiple sclerosis
Muscle spasms
Nausea
Pain
Seizures

A more politically palatable option is to start with industrial hemp, which can be used to make a wide range of products, including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Like bamboo, it is among the fastest growing plants in the world. Hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 50,000 years ago.

While hemp is the same species of plant as cannabis (marijuana), it contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), less than 0.3%, the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” associated with smoking or ingesting marijuana edibles.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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