North Korea Is a "Weed-Lover's Paradise"

By Nina Puro 01/16/13

Despite running the country with an iron grip, Kim Jong-un's regime is reportedly relaxed about marijuana.

North Korean soldiers apparently smoke a lot
of pot.
Photo via

The North Korean government, known for its harsh regulation of, well, pretty much everything, is surprisingly giving a free pass to marijuana. Korean news source reports that, although the country has a zero-tolerance policy for harder drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, marijuana is not widely considered to be a drug. Cannabis apparently grows abundantly along roadsides, going by the name ip tambae or "leaf tobacco." Because it's so readily available, it's often used as a cheap alternative to cigarettes, and is especially popular among soldiers and the lower classes. As well as being common in the wild, the herb is reportedly a staple of many private gardens. One American traveler comments on Reddit that, “We came to a garden one day and took one look and said, ‘that is weed!’ We went over and sure enough they were growing marijuana. I had heard it is used for medicine but finding it was interesting.” But while North Korea may be "a weed-lover's paradise," for North Koreans, Westerners who visit the country will find it tricky to get their paws on the plant. Foreigners are carefully watched, and tour guides reportedly discourage their use of marijuana, for fear—apparently—of sullying the country's international reputation. Widespread marijuana use in North Korea reportedly dates back to the nation's birth, when weed-smoking and "hot boxing" tents were common practice among US soldiers during the Korean War.

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Nina Puro is a regular contributor to The Fix. Her poetry and essays have appeared in publications such as Third CoastPleiades and Harper Palate. You can find Nina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.