When I tell people that I work in North Korea, more often than not they hit me with ‘facts’ about North Korea. One that comes up a lot is “did you know that weed is legal in North Korea?” Long story short: Pyongyang is unlikely to become the next Amsterdam anytime soon.
Is weed legal in North Korea?
Hemp is indigenous and grown throughout North Korea. It is used for a number of industrial products (as in the rest of the world), as well as for a number of traditional Korean medicines that are still regularly used.
So where, exactly, did the urban myth that marijuana is legal in North Korea originate?
A number of years ago, a blogger travelled to the Rason SEZ of North Korea. Rason is the only place in North Korea where foreigners are allowed to visit private markets. At the private markets it’s possible to buy loose tobacco for cigarette rolling. One of the varieties available is hemp tobacco, which is known as ‘poor man’s tobacco’ and is utterly unable to get you high. So whilst it’s true that you can buy and smoke ‘hemp’, it’s not cannabis. So is weed legal in North Korea? No, it’s not.
Despite this, our blogger’s blog on the topic went viral and, as with anything to do with North Korea, rumour became fact in the eyes of the world.
To put this matter well and truly to bed: whilst many states around the world are clamouring to make marijuana legal, North Korea is not one of them. Use and transportation of marijuana is illegal in the DPRK, and foreigners caught in possession of marijuana or derivative products would be subject to arrest and, more than likely, prosecution.
Overall: don’t believe the myths, and treat the illegal consumption of drugs in North Korea as you would in any other Asian country (i.e. don’t do it).