Marijuana Is Legal In Uzbekistan….

History of cannabis in Uzbekistan

Just as with other countries in the region, cannabis is indigenous to Uzbekistan and is likely to have been utilised by humans for thousands of years. Specifically, it is thought that C. indicasp afghanica is the type that is dominant in Uzbekistan; it is thought to have evolved in the region straddling southern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan (particularly Balkh Province, which is well-known for its cannabis production and is the home of several well-known cultivars including Mazar-I-Sharif). However, the region is a centre of diversity; other types, such as ruderalis, may grow in more northerly parts of Uzbekistan.

Although no archaeological evidence of ancient cannabis use has been found in Uzbekistan itself, there have been finds in nearby parts of China as well as evidence from elsewhere in Central Asia indicating that cannabis has been in use since at least 2,700 BCE. The Bronze Age Oxus Civilisation inhabited the region in around 2300-1700 BCE; archaeological evidence indicates ritual use of cannabis, although this has been disputed. Later (around 800 BCE), Scythian equestrian tribes from the northern steppes began to settle the region, leaving their own archaeological evidence of cannabis use.

Uzbekistan’s historic city Samarkand is renowned for being a central point on the Silk Road that connected China and the West from around 200 BCE (although trade had existed between the disparate regions for many centuries—possibly millennia—prior to the great road-building efforts of the Chinese Han Dynasty). Later, Samarkand became known as a centre of Islamic learning. Due to this, it is almost inevitable that a lively trade in cannabis existed within what is now Uzbekistan throughout these times.

Culture of cannabis use in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has an active culture of cannabis use; it is regarded as traditional, and is widely socially accepted. The local Uzbek word for cannabis is ‘anasha’. Cannabis use is increasing in some urban centres, but for the most part it has remained consistent in recent years. It is the most widely-used illicit substance in Uzbekistan, and it is estimated that 4.2{f1d755e3d686d84b3fba3fb9da3bc25d6eb08724c18385fd50146d58c836a6dd} of the adult population regularly indulges.

In comparison, opiates such as opium and heroin are used regularly by around 1{f1d755e3d686d84b3fba3fb9da3bc25d6eb08724c18385fd50146d58c836a6dd} of the population—although opiate users make up the vast majority of treatment-seeking problem users. Heroin use is increasing at worrying rates, and is of far greater concern to authorities and healthcare workers than cannabis use, or even the more traditional use of opium.

The rise of large-scale, organised drug trafficking in the early 1990s saw traditional drugs such as opium and cannabis to be supplanted in some areas by cheap, readily-available heroin, which is usually injected. Due to the rise in numbers of injecting heroin users—who often employ unsafe practices—rates of HIV/AIDS have also increased.

Although cannabis use is generally accepted, there are notable exceptions. In 2012, the Uzbek Olympic silver-medallist judo practitioner Abdullo Tangriev was disqualified from the 30thOlympic Games in London and suspended from competing for two years after traces of cannabis were found in his blood during routine drug testing—to widespread public disapproval.

Cultivated and wild cannabis in Uzbekistan

Cannabis grows wild and is also cultivated in Uzbekistan, although the industry is tiny compared with that in Afghanistan or Kazakhstan, the region’s two biggest producers. As a wild crop, it is commonly found growing alongside roads or in fields throughout the country. The total area of cultivated and wild cannabis grown in Uzbekistan is not known, and it appears that there is some fluctuation year on year, perhaps as a result of opium-focused eradication efforts.

In 2006, Uzbekistan reported 0.4 hectares of wild growth and 1.44 hectares of illicit cultivation; however, this figure is likely to be too low, given the less-than-effective state of counternarcotics operations in the country. Also in 2006, 621 individuals were reported to have been convicted of planting narcotic plants (although it is not clear what proportion was poppy or ephedra, and what cannabis). Overall, it appears that cannabis cultivation is increasing, although it appears that the harvest remains in Uzbekistan and is not produced in large enough quantities to export. Cultivation remains illegal, but there is apparently an exemption made for men aged over 60 and women aged over 55.

Much interest has been paid to the landrace genetics from Uzbekistan and surrounding countries, and it is possible to source seeds purporting to be of Uzbek origin from several online outlets. Due to its proximity to Afghanistan, some highly-prized genetics are well-known to originate in and around Uzbekistan, and some of the most famous ‘hash plant’ hail from the region.

  1. indica sp afghanica is the classic ‘indica’ type most known to breeders, with wide leaves, a short, squat appearance and copious resin production. It differs from the type found in northern India, Pakistan and Nepal—this type (C. indica sp indica) actually has narrow leaves, and is far more resistant to damp than its afghanica counterpart, which is used to cool but arid conditions. According to some sources, C. indica sp afghanica is the type of cannabis most likely to exhibit purpling, and most modern, commercial purple strains have afghanica ancestry.

U.S. & U.K. producing cannabis-killing fungus in Uzbekistan

The vibrant modern capital Tashkent sees significant trafficking of Afghan contraband each year (© Woweezowee)

In 1999, it was reported that scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were working in tandem with Uzbek scientists at an ex-Soviet biological weapons facility in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, to produce a fungus with selective herbicidal properties known asFusarium oxysporum. The project was also reported to be conducted using British funding, operating under the mandate of the U.N. Drug Control Program.

There are many different strains of the fungus, and while many are benign or possible even beneficial to plants, several are pathogenic—and it is these strains that are the focus of the research. F. oxysporum f. sp. cannabis is a strain that is specific to cannabis; F. oxysporum f. sp. erythroxyli targets the coca family Erythroxylaceae. A separate pathogen, Pleospora papaveracea, specifically targets opium poppy. However, the ecological impact (as well as that on human health) of these organisms has not been fully tested, and environmentalists have expressed grave concerns that non-target species can be affected, and that the pathogens can remain in the soil for decades.

While sporadic references to the pathogens have popped up in the years since then, particularly with regard to U.S. counternarcotics operations in Colombia, it does not appear that they have been tested ‘in the field’, and Colombia itself has rejected proposals to conduct tests. In 2011, members of the U.S. advisory board the National Research Council stated that understanding of the pathogens’ efficacy and safety was too limited to allow for their implementation.

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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