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
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
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.)