The United States is known worldwide for our insatiable drug habit, and for decades we’ve been seen as the ones importing it all from other countries. Whether it was opium and heroin from the East, primo ganja from Jamaica, Mexico or Thailand in the 70s, or cocaine from Colombia still to this day shipping stuff in has always been our style.
We still do most of that, but it seems we’ve managed to start exporting something we’re really good at: cannabis. According to a recent Associated Press story out of Hanoi, Vietnam, Canadian and American ganja isn’t just in demand in Asia – it’s prevalent and carries a hefty price despite heavy penalties for importing drugs in that country.
The article explains part of the popularity to the Vietnamese diaspora to North America over the last forty years, with large immigrant populations relocating to the west coast of the United States and Canada where cannabis is already prevalent. Vietnamese gangs have a history of running cannabis in parts of California and Canadian cities like Vancouver, and the article surmises that a lot of the demand for good ganja stems from that.
But the article also points to improved genetics and cultivation methods over the last thirty years or so that have greatly increased the potency and variety of marijuana. In the United States and Canada, where laws have grown increasingly more relaxed surrounding medical cannabis, cultivation has flourished. That has, in turn, pushed the appreciation for fine cannabis to a broader audience over time.
“Some people raise cows,” one Vietnamese youth told reporters while lighting up a joint at an outdoor café in Hanoi. “Other people prefer to buy steak at the market.”
For the price, though, he might as well be buying a whole cow. A gram of Canadian herb sells for $45 a gram. That’s equal the average weekly income for the entire country. That same amount would sell for at most $10 back home in Vancouver or as low as $5 in states like Colorado and Oregon.
But, apparently, it is worth it compared to the schwag they normally see in these countries these days.
“They charge a ridiculous premium, but the quality compared to the local stuff is ridiculously different,” one American living and working as an English teacher said. He formerly worked on a pot farm in California. “It’s good for special occasions.”
In Thailand – once known for their incredible landrace sativas – the foreign-cannabis trend has caught on with youth looking to mimic flashy, Western capitalist ideals according to an expert with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Thailand.
“On the one hand, there is enough supply is here, so we really don’t need things coming from other parts of the world,” he said. “But when we talk about high potency cannabis, then it is a different story. Among the elite and rich kids, this is like a trend: ‘let’s not use local stuff, it is rubbish.'”
Someone clearly needs to go over and teach them some better farming techniques.
Cannabis is illegal in Vietnam and Thailand, but is often overlooked by police who are concerned with more serious drugs and crime.