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Grassing on growers

The Editor,

My comrades and I are appalled at your story on ganja farming in the latest issue.

Although well-researched and written, your complete lack of discretion in naming

the farmers, their exact location and income will surely jeopardize the livelihoods

of these poor people, who are just making the switch from farming tobacco and other

less profitable crops and who are "pinning their hopes" for future income

on ganja cultivation. My sentiments were echoed by the "Western artist"

quoted in the article, whose comments were in fact directed at the outrageousness

of the story idea, not the banning of ganja itself. We are concerned that their exposure

in this story will bring the authorities down upon the innocent farmers, and shortly

thereafter, all of us who enjoy the freedom to smoke here in the Kingdom.

It is a sad fact that, due to mounting pressure from the American and other governments

and the ignorance of the local authorities, ganja farming is coming under a crackdown

as of late. Ganja is again being confused as an "addictive thing," lumped

together with heroin and other hard drugs as something bad, something which must

be controlled for the "good of society" or some other vague reason. Thus,

circumstances dictate that those of us who enjoy ganja must be discreet, lest we

are forced to go completely underground, or endure the sort of persecution to which

ganja smokers are subjected in other less enlightened countries.

As a smoker for over 15 years, I can tell you that ganja is NOT addictive, at least

in the sense of heroin, where one can become physically ill if one's supply is cut.

I have gone for long periods of non-use in which I did not even think of smoking,

much less felt ill or otherwise compelled to smoke. Being stoned is much more likely

to cause one to fall asleep, or at worse, to forget one's keys or to engage in long,

rambling conversations with strangers.

If heroin is a rather extreme example, please compare ganja to one legal and widely

available drug - alcohol. When under the influence of alcohol, people tend to behave

irrationally and sometimes dangerously: they cause traffic accidents, get into fights,

or simply stagger around and fall down. When they become addicted to alcohol - an

addiction vastly more common than ganja-holism, judging from the ranks of AA chapters

around the globe - they feel a physical craving and an extreme psychological dependence

on drink. They can be a threat to themselves and society.

Thus, the reasoning for any government suppression of the responsible use of ganja

is fundamentally flawed. Ganja poses no threat to the public health or order. In

the same vein, considering their negative effects on society, the continued official

support of and laissez-faire attitude towards the liquor and tobacco industries is

absolutely foolish.

I personally do not favor the suppression of any drug, for such suppression never

eliminates the demand for the drug but only creates a criminal subculture. I believe

in education on the responsible use of all drugs, including ganja, alcohol, and even

paracetamol and cold medicines.

Any crackdowns will only hurt the peasant farmers and merchants selling ganja. It

will not stop people from using it, both Khmers and foreigners. A strictly enforced

ban will cause the price of ganja in Cambodia, so wonderfully cheap as quoted in

the story, to rise to ridiculous levels. Thugs will become involved in the lucrative

underground trade, as in other countries. And then - the height of irony - ignorant

politicians will demand further crackdowns and suppression based on the reasoning

that ganja causes crime. Trust me on this one; I've seen it happen in America and

in Thailand.

Until such time as the powers that be realize the benevolent nature of ganja, those

who would continue using it must exercise discretion, in particular certain foreign

journalists who are known to enjoy a smoke on occasions and whose thoughtlessness

may encourage increased suppression. In other words, the story could have been written

without naming names and giving locations.

We would like to voice our support for ganja farmers throughout Cambodia, and our

strong condemnation for any government intolerance of ganja, especially which might

be directed against such farmers as a result of your ill-considered article.
- Stoned in Phnom Penh.

- (Editor's reply: As the story said, local authorities already know who is growing

the ganja, and where.)

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