North Korea has been getting some pretty high praise lately from the stoner world.
Marijuana news outlets including High Times, Merry Jane and Green Rush — along with British tabloids, which always love a good yarn — are hailing the North as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. They’ve reported North Korean marijuana to be legal, abundant and mind-blowingly cheap, sold openly to Chinese and Russian tourists at a major market on the North’s border for about $3 a pound.
But seriously, North Korea? Baked?
The claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin. And the person who would likely help any American charged with a crime in North Korea emphatically rejects the idea that the ban is not enforced.
“There should be no doubt that drugs, including marijuana, are illegal here,” said Torkel Stiernlof, the Swedish ambassador. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the North, so Sweden’s embassy acts as a middleman when U.S. citizens run afoul of North Korean laws.
“One can’t buy it legally and it would be a criminal offence to smoke it,” Stiernlof said. He said that if a foreigner caught violating drug laws in North Korea happened to be an American citizen, he or she could “expect no leniency whatsoever.”