We may all have started to see North Korea from a new perspective this weekend after their supreme leader Kim Jong-Un met with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in in one of the most historic events of our life times. It feels good to hear discussions of denuclearizing the region, but how many people out there knew there is a marijuana culture in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A journalist named Darmon Richter travels the world writing about his encounters and no region of the world seems to be off limits for him, including North Korea. He ventured into a northern region of North Korea in 2013 called Rason and actually came upon a market selling weed. Ditch weed, but weed all the same.
That is when Richter stumbled on the deal of a lifetime. A tobacco vendor who displayed suspiciously green leaves among his harvest. At $0.65 a pound, $4.20 could buy six and a half pounds of what appeared to be cannabis and while Richter is certain that the giant bag he walked away with was weed, there is a catch. “It’s ditch weed,” he says.
“It’s that familiar plant, with that taste and that effect and it’s not a very strong effect and the leaves are damp and you have to shove a lot in and it doesn’t want to light properly and it gives you a headache, but it does get you mildly high as well—which pure hemp shouldn’t do,” he recalls.
“By way of a polite gesture, I offered [Kim] a joint…very much expecting him to refuse it,” Richter writes, “Instead he smiled, winked, and put his arm round my shoulder as he started puffing away on the fat paper cone.”
The idea that the incredibly strict government would allow any sort of marijuana sold in North Korea may surprise many of us. Perhaps with North Korea’s new relationship with the world, we will discover that there is a lot more to North Korea than any of us imagined.