Manipur’s Marijuana has been considered as the best weed in the country. As stories keep on surfacing of smuggling contraband opium, there are reasons which make this state a favorable entity for such clandestine operations.
Owing to its geographical compulsions, Manipur has become a source, destination and transit point for Opium, Heroin, Marijuana and other psychotropic drugs. Located on the Indo- Myanmar border, Manipur sits at the edge of the so-called Golden Triangle of the drug trade. The Golden Triangle is made up of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China where the unregulated opium trade is operational on the Mekong River, where the waterway meets these four countries. The Golden Triangle is a much newer phenomenon which emerged in the 1980s. The Golden Triangle started making an impact on the opium and morphine market in the 1980s and has steadily increased its output since then in order to match the increasing demand. A recent report brought to light that after Punjab- Manipur, Mizoram and Assam were the most affected states on drugs abuse.
The various districts of Manipur including Ukhrul has been under the scanner for weed cultivation. In a survey done by the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), it was found that the cultivation of Marijuana locally known as Ganja has been in practice for the more than five decades in the district. It was also found that Marijuana was being cultivated for 36 years which included both veterans as well as first generation cultivators. Reasons for opium cultivation include lack of employment opportunities, indebtedness, poverty, etc. Another factor which got revealed was that majority of the respondents followed Christianity. Christianity condemns the consumption of psychoactive substances as sinful but the issue of morality became subservient to the issue of earning a livelihood.
A United Nations report in December revealed that opium production in the Golden Triangle had tripled since 2006, with the illegal drugs trade in the region worth $16.3 billion. The area produced 762 tonnes of opium in 2014, making about 76 tonnes of heroin, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its Southeast Asia Opium Survey. Another important drug belt is The Golden Crescent. It has a much longer history of opium production than does Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle. The Golden Crescent which overlaps Afghanistan-Iraq-Pakistan started functioning in the 1950s. During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Golden Crescent’s opium production took a huge hit, producing almost 90% less opium than in 2000.
At the peak of its opium production in 2007, the Golden Crescent monopolised the market by producing more than 8,000 of the world’s almost 9,000 total tons of opium. The Golden Crescent also dominates the cannabis resin market due to the high resin yields of the region (145 kg/ha). It also caters to a much larger market, about 64% more than the Golden Triangle. It produces and distributes over 2,500 tons of opiates to Africa, Europe, the Americas and Central Asia and supplies almost 9.5 million opiate users worldwide. Despite worldwide efforts to capture and seize as much opium product as possible, total opiate seizures only brought in 23.5% of the total estimated product distributed worldwide.
While Afghanistan is now the biggest cultivator of opium poppies in the world, the Golden Triangle used to be largest, until eradication efforts in the late 1990s brought cultivation plummeting. However, production has been on the rise once more due to better transport infrastructure as well as an increasing number of heroin users in the surrounding countries.
Three months ago, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China launched a programme to curb the illegal trafficking, with each nation realising that the problem could not be handled by each country alone. Thailand now hosts the Safe Mekong Co-ordination Centre (SMCC) in Chiang Mai town, which helps coordinate investigations between the four nations.
(Sources : Economic and Political Weekly, The Independent)
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