Buying Marijuana in North Korea Sure Sounds Easy

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For all the freedoms that North Korea lacks, it has one that most Western countries don't: Apparently, you can legally buy and smoke marijuana.


As Vice reported earlier this year, marijuana, or "ip tambae" ("leaf tobacco") is supposedly grown openly on the roadsides and smoked on the streets of Pyongyang. In North Korea, marijuana, it seems, is legal and doesn't have restrictions, such as for medical use only, like some parts of the U.S. do.

But, according to Vice, tourists who go on tours of North Korea don't get to sample the local crop, because the North Korean guides are savvy enough about Western culture to shoot down those inquiries.

Image for article titled Buying Marijuana in North Korea Sure Sounds Easy

However, freelance writer Darmon Richter recently wrote on The Bohemian Blog about his experience buying and smoking North Korean bud earlier this year. In North Korea, the drug is apparently enjoyed by the country's working class for its medicinal effects and is also seen as a way to unwind and relax.

Richter writes about how, with the help of a North Korean intelligence officer, he was about to get into a food market, which locals shop at but visitors are not allowed to see. Here's Richter:

Shoes, toys, make-up, lighters, DIY tools that look around 40 years old, clothing, military uniforms (which we were forbidden from buying), spices, chocolates, soft drinks, dried noodles, bottled spirits, beer and a whole aisle lined with mounds of dry, hand-picked tobacco.

We were just walking past the tobacco sellers when we spotted another stall ahead, piled high with mounds of green rather than brown plant matter. It turned out to be exactly what we first suspected: a veritable mountain of marijuana.

In the name of scientific enquiry, it seemed appropriate to buy some... and the little old ladies running the stall were happy to load us up with plastic bags full of the stuff, charging us roughly £0.50 each.


After buying the marijuana, Richter bought rolling paper at a tobacco seller and then starting "rolling up and lighting comically oversized joints" in the middle of the market.

Image for article titled Buying Marijuana in North Korea Sure Sounds Easy

"However, before you go thinking that Pyongyang is the next Amsterdam, it should be noted that the marijuana in North Korea is not very strong," Richter adds. "This is cannabis which has been grown naturally in mountainside fields. While the flavour's all there, it'll take a few well-packed joints before one starts to feel anything approaching the effect typical of a Western crop. That said, at prices like these some might not consider this a problem."

You can read Richter's full report in the link below.

Photos: DarmonRichter | Flickr

On Smoking Weed in North Korea [The Bohemian Blog via ROK Drop]

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


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I love that even the most draconian, abusive and corrupt government in the world recognizes how crazy it is to punish people for smoking pot. Really puts things in perspective.