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