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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pot not the problem

Pot not the problem

Pot not the problem

A n Open Letter to General Heng Peo, Chief of the Municipal Anti-Drug

Police.

As a ganja-smoking resident of Phnom Penh since 1991, I am very

concerned over reports that the Anti-Drug police are soon to begin a "crackdown"

on ganja smokers in the capital. I am also distressed to hear that merchants

selling ganja in various markets around the city have been arrested.

Mr.

Peo, I would like to know what you know about ganja. What are its effects on

people? Is it dangerous, and if so, how? Why should it be made illegal? May I

respectfully suggest that you consider these questions before you begin your

"crackdown"?

Having enjoyed ganja for almost twenty years of my life, I

feel I have some authority to speak on the subject. Ganja is an herb which has

been used by humans for thousands of years, in nearly every country and culture.

It may be smoked, eaten, or brewed as tea. In Cambodia it is traditionally used

as a spice added to soup, and I daresay this has been the case for centuries.

Its effects include a mild euphoric (happy) feeling, slight drowsiness,

hunger, and sometimes a dry mouth. Personally, ganja causes me to think a lot;

thus sometimes I cannot sleep for several hours. That's it!

I and those I

know who smoke ganja regularly do it in the privacy of our homes after a hard

day's work, or publicly at parties and with friends.

There is no

psychosis, no insane, anti-social behavior; those who have smoked it don't go

out to kill, rape or pillage. Ganja is non-addictive - no-one steals or robs in

order to support his/her uncontrollable cravings for it. And it is safe. I

challenge anyone to show documented proof in which ganja use caused sickness or

the death of anybody.

In fact, Mr. Peo, there are two other, much more

dangerous drugs which are not only readily available in Phnom Penh, but are

advertised daily on television, in newspapers, and almost every public space in

the capital: alcohol and tobacco.

In comparison, consider the effects of

just a few drinks of whisky or several beers. The imbiber feels dizzy, hot.

Judgement becomes impaired, vision unclear and fuzzy. Body movement is difficult

to coordinate; walking is unsteady, the legs are wobbly. Emotions become

unstable; one may be ecstatically happy in one instant, and deeply depressed or

angry in the next. Confidence is blown up into false bravado. Now, imagine our

drinker leaving the bar or nightclub, getting into his car or on a moto, and

venturing onto the anarchic streets of Phnom Penh...

As for tobacco, one

need look no further than the 50,000-plus deaths annually in America alone which

are caused by tobacco-induced illnesses.

Mr. Peo, I'm sure you are a

sensible man. Please, look at the facts before persecuting ganja smokers. Has

anyone been arrested for violent crimes after smoking it? Have you seen anyone

staggering in the street, firing into the air with a gun while stoned? Has

anyone beaten their wife or children in a rage caused by ganja? Honestly, have

you ever seen anyone do anything anti-social while under the influence of ganja?

So, why should people be arrested for using it?

I invite you to have a

serious look at the behavior of ganja smokers. Visit the places you intend to

target. Take a good look at the people there who are smoking ganja. I'm sure you

will find their demeanor completely unthreatening.

My suspicion is that

the United States' Drug Enforcement Agency is supplying the funds, training, and

political pressure for your proposed ganja "crackdown." Please, Mr. Peo,

consider the situation in that country, where ganja has been outlawed since 1937

and hundreds of thousands of users persecuted and imprisoned. What has been the

total result of this persecution? Uncounted lives ruined, uncounted millions of

government money misspent. And still, despite all this, millions of Americans

continue using ganja to this day, safely and responsibly - but in fear. The

government's program is a total failure. Is this not hypocrisy in its most

loathesome form?

Again, I ask you respectfully to please reconsider your

proposed anti-ganja campaign. I guarantee you, nothing good will come of it.

- Stoned in Phnom Penh.

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