Sharia law in the Taliban-dominated country of Afghanistan now bans weed cultivation along a long list of other basic freedoms.
The Express-Tribune reports that Taliban supreme leader Mawlavi Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a decree in Kabul, Afghanistan that the cultivation of cannabis is prohibited across the country. The decree was reported on March 19. When someone is caught growing cannabis, the operation will be destroyed and violators punished according to Sharia law.
“Cultivation in the whole country is completely banned and if anyone grows them, the plantation will be destroyed. The courts have also been ordered to punish the violators as per Sharia laws,” stated Akhundzada.
Who is Akhundzada? CBS News reported on Feb. 17, 2023 that Akhundzada has essentially taken Afghanistan back to the “Stone Age,” with one of the most draconian takes on Sharia law. Within two years, he took women out of schools in the country, again. Even the Taliban’s acting Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani criticized Akhundzada’s thirst for power.
What exactly are punishments under Sharia law? The “crimes” of apostasy, revolt, adultery, slander, and alcohol carry penalties that include the amputation of hands and feet, flogging, and/or death. This also includes punishments for the uncovered bodies and hair of women.
Cannabis (and opium) trade is believed to have “fueled militancy” in Afghanistan before the Taliban’s rise to power in 2021. After Sept. 11, 2001 insurgents in Afghanistan never gave up, for over 20 years.
On April, 14, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that remaining troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years after 9-11. Four presidents subsequently failed to dissolve the Taliban. But after announcing the withdrawal, the Taliban military immediately sprung into action and took the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15, 2021, causing the government to collapse. The Taliban announced control about a month later.
Cannabis in Afghanistan
Cannabis cultivation is by no means a limited underground phenomenon in Afghanistan.
For background, cannabis remains one of the most produced crops by farmers across the country. Afghanistan “is the second country most frequently reported as the origin of seized cannabis resin worldwide, accounting for 18 percent of all reports on the main ‘country of origin’ in the period 2015–2019,” the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) reported in 2021. Only Morocco reports more seizures of cannabis resin.
Between 10,000 and 24,000 hectares of cannabis were grown every year in Afghanistan, with major operations in 17 out 34 provinces the UNODC reported in 2010.
It’s kind of a double standard if you look at what the Taliban has done in the past. Before the Taliban took over power once again in 2021, militants reportedly “siphoned off millions of dollars” from pot farmers and the smugglers who ship cannabis.
Creating more hypocrisy, the Taliban claimed to have partnered with a medical cannabis company in 2021.
Taliban Press Director Qari Saeed Khosty claimed that a contract had been signed between the government and a cannabis firm called Cpharm to set up a $450 million cannabis processing centre in Afghanistan, and further that the facility would be “up and running within days.” The news ran globally, picked up by outlets including the Times of London.
This also coincided with a report on Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News Service that representatives of the company met with counter-narcotic officials at the Ministry of the Interior to discuss the production of medicines and creams.
Cpharm Australia, the first company named in the press as being involved in the deal, subsequently rebuked the claim, according to Reuters.
For the time being, cannabis cultivation is banned for everyone else in the country.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.