Afghanistan Now World’s Top Source of Marijuana

Long the world’s largest producer of opium, the raw ingredient of heroin, Afghanistan has now become the top supplier of cannabis, with large-scale cultivation in half of its provinces, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Between 10,000 and 24,000 hectares of cannabis are grown every year in Afghanistan, with major cultivation in 17 out 34 provinces, the U.N. drug agency (UNODC) said in its first report on cannabis production in Afghanistan.

While some countries grow cannabis on more land, Afghanistan’s robust crop yields — 145 kg of resin per hectare compared to around 40 kg per hectare in Morocco — make it the world’s largest producer, estimated at 1,500-3,500 tons a year.

“This report shows that Afghanistan’s drug problem is even more complex than just the opium trade,” said Antonio Maria Costa, head of UNODC in the report.

“Reducing Afghanistan’s cannabis supply should be dealt with more seriously, as part of the national drug control strategy.”

For years Afghanistan has been the world’s largest producer of opium, a paste extracted from poppies and processed into heroin. While land cultivated with poppies fell by 22 percent last year, record yields meant production fell only 10 percent.


The illegal opium trade is said to fuel the insurgency in Afghanistan with the Taliban siphoning off millions of dollars from the trade by imposing taxes on farmers and smugglers in return for ensuring safe passage of the drug.

“Like opium, cannabis cultivation, production and trafficking are taxed by those who control the territory, providing an additional source of revenue for insurgents,” the report said.

As with opium, most cannabis cultivation takes place in the south of the country where the insurgency is strongest, UNODC said, with more than two-thirds (67 percent) of cannabis farmers also growing opium.

One of the main reasons cannabis is so widely grown, UNODC said, is because of its low labor costs and high returns. Three times cheaper to cultivate than opium, the net income from a hectare of cannabis is $3,341 compared to $2,005 for opium.

“The entire process is a non-expensive, fast industrial process, which is indeed somewhat worrying,” Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of UNODC in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul.

“We have already enough problems with the opium so we don’t want to see the cannabis taking over.”

Afghanistan still grows far more opium than cannabis, however, and Lemahieu said it was unlikely to overtake the poppy crop as it required a lot of water to grow — in short supply in Afghanistan — and had a very short shelf life.

“You can walk around with opium for 10 to 15 years and, perhaps, like the wine it gets better with the time. For cannabis … you need to process it really immediately,” said Lemahieu.

While cannabis production in 2009 was valued at an estimated $39-94 million, this is only about 10-20 percent of the total farm-gate value of Afghanistan’s opium production, because so much more opium is grown.

While some of the cannabis is consumed within Afghanistan, most of the drug is smuggled abroad following the same routes as opium, UNODC said. In 2008, 245,000 kg of cannabis was seized in southern Kandahar near to the border with Pakistan.

“As with opium, the bottom line is to improve security and development in drug-producing regions in order to wean farmers off illicit crops and into sustainable, licit livelihoods, and to deny insurgents another source of illicit income,” Costa said.

– Article from The New York Daily News.



  1. Pingback: Undp Cannabis Afghanistan – Cannabistoday

  2. Anonymous on

    Let them grow their own and smoke it, WHY in the world can’t we just grow our own here in stead of importing it from overseas.
    they have very good cannabis for medical purposes but also they have shared their strains. I am very happy that cannabis has been proven scientifically to have medicinal value, and the government propaganda has been uncovered.

  3. Anonymous on

    Well yes technically, they mostly force the farmers to pay them “protection” money and then they force the traffickers to pay them “protection” to smuggle it across various borders. They do this to skirt around Sharia (Islamic law) which makes dealing with drugs a sin; although in a twist of irony Sharia allows at least weed to be used to treat illness.

    Legalizing it however gives the farmers the ability to redress the government if the Taliban strong-arms them and allows it to be exported through the highly protected (at least in terms pertaining to the security of the rest of the country) legal trade routes.

    All this is a moot point though because it is never going to happen and even if it does “charitable” giving to the Taliban has increased especially in Pakistan to the point where they wouldn’t be broke if they lost the drug trade protection just not as well financed.

    On a slightly political note:

    A lot of people think the U.N./U.S. should leave Afghanistan but this isn’t like Iraq; The Taliban are serious assholes who force women to stay home, force young women(read teen and preteen) into arranged marriages, allow marital rape, ban everything from T.V. to getting your picture taken and force young women out of school and young boys to go to Islamic school. They violate almost every human right you can imagine and are brutal to their enemies especially the Northern Alliance who fought them every since they gained power after the Soviet occupation and still fight them today.

    Regardless of the ambiguity brought to the war on terrorism by GWB there are still good reasons to stay and help protect the Afghan people which had international support up until the point GWB developed blood-lust for Iraq.

  4. Anonymous on

    Isn’t the drug trade fueling the Taliban? It says they have to pay tax for the land and pay for trafficking the cannabis.

  5. Anonymous on

    Al-Quiada(ya its spelled wrong oh well) used to kill opium farmers I’m pretty sure. Then when the United States came and got rid of them and now all the government does is burn down their crop so basically they just start all over.I heard it on a National Geographic special.

  6. Anonymous on

    I read a journal called foreign affairs and there was one lonely voice that suggested what you just suggested and surprisingly it was a U.S. military commander he wasn’t “big brass” and I don’t think his suggestion was well received but at least there was one. I wish I could find the article it was back in like 2003.

    Some other interesting articles on the same theme:

  7. David762 on

    One cannot help but draw parallels to prior overseas USA military adventures in which illicit drugs became far more prominent within their Area of Operations — Vietnam, Central America/South America, and now Afghanistan. In each instance, the CIA/NSA and their mercenary force presence increased in lockstep with increased illicit drug trafficking. We already know much about the CIA involvement in the illicit drug trade from Latin America in order to raise funds off the books to engage in military operations without Congressional oversight. The USA’s “War of Drugs” is again funding the USA’s “War of Terror”.

    Yet another reason why the USA government (or some major influential part thereof) is so adamantly opposed to the end of Prohibition 2.0, in spite of numerous scientific and sociological studies to the contrary — vast illicit profits to the Powers that Be.

  8. Anonymous on

    Who from Washington’s extreme right was involved in efforts in Vietnam, and Afghanistan? Could it be just coincidence that it was Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and a few other big names in the G.W.Bush extreme right Administration.

  9. Anymous on

    “As with opium, the bottom line is to improve security and development in drug-producing regions in order to wean farmers off illicit crops and into sustainable, licit livelihoods, and to deny insurgents another source of illicit income,” Costa said.

    The truth is, opium production had been reduced prior to the invasion, the Taliban had practically eliminated opium production entirely. Production has skyrocketed as US troops now secure the opium production. The CIA & armed forces have been trafficking drugs for decades, Vietnam, Columbia, Afghanistan, same story.

  10. Anonymous on

    “You can walk around with opium for 10 to 15 years and, perhaps, like the wine it gets better with the time. For cannabis … you need to process it really immediately,” said Lemahieu.

    Thats not true: I was a resident in kabul in the hash and hash oil business in 1973. I bought 40 year old non pressed hash…..called fodder. they would bury the hash in tins and dig it up put it in the hot sun and depowder it. Put it back in the ground it condenses. The shit I bought would bubble off when flame was added!

    Another myth uncovered!

  11. Anonymous on

    Someone really ought to let the U.N. know how this could benefit at Afghanistan economy, Shouldn’t they be happy that marijuana-a benign plant, is being more widely used and grown in Afghanistan than the highly addictive/lethal substance Opium-Heroin

  12. The Balleehoo on

    Let them grow as much as they can! Their economy would get a huge boost. Let them make those wonderful hasheesh
    squares ! We will buy it all up ! Free the borders to Afghany goldseal ! Redseal, anyseal ! The time has come !
    I’ll take some of that gooey, yummy opium too ! (in moderation of course)


  13. Anonymous on

    Legalize weed in all the UN affiliated Countries and let the people who now grow poppies switch to growing marijuana and you have stopped the Taliban or so the UN would have you believe from shipping heroin to pay for “their” war and you have successfully crippled the Taliban income???????? Although I personally think that drug money is not the main source of income for Al Queda,and the Taliban. I do question the intelligence of the statements like Bin Laden is hiding in a cave in Afghanistan? Simply because if he was smart enough to pull off 9/11 on his own with no inside help from someone very high up in the USA government he would not need to hide in a cave with goats? Now lets get to the subject if Afghanistan is the world’s top source of marijuana it either got that way under the watch of the UN or with the help of the UN. Thought for the day the bulk of marijuana as compared to heroin is what a 100 times? If the Taliban can move that much weed under the nose of the UN soldiers, we had better pull out of there now? We cannot stop them? When you consider that before the Bush?UN invasion in 03 there was basically no heroin coming out of Afghanistan, before Bush left office in 09(there was a dramatic drop in flow at the same time, which is now back to same amounts as before the war) the record amounts of heroin coming out of that country had reached in access of 10,000 plus metric tonnes per annum, a rate that tripled the world consumption? I suggest that reason could be that marijuana is becoming the crop of choice because the stock pile of heroin is so large that the market for such addiction needs to be enlarged? Now that I think about the UN still does not get it? But I can say this with some assurance the increase if heroin offenses will spike for many years to come. The currant right wing drug agenda will increase the price of marijuana and decrease the price of heroin. We the majority in Canada do not want that to happen? Why are our voices not being herd?