Hash and Marijuana in Iran

When you hear the following scene being described, where in the world do you picture?

"The skunky smell of marijuana smoke wafts through restaurants in the ski resorts.... In the winter months, young skiers and snowboarders can be seen casually rolling joints while riding the chairlift up the mountain."

It is a challenging feat, yet not far fetched in destinations like Aspen Colorado, Lake Tahoe California, Mt. Hood Oregon, or Mt. Baker Washington. Surprisingly, this is an excerpt from a New York Times Article describing Dizin and Shemshak ski resorts in Iran. In a country that executes hundreds of people every year for dealing drugs, apparently

"most people get off with a fine β€” there are no prison sentences or lashings prescribed for people found carrying small amounts of pot". (NYTimes)

While police still spend time busting illegal grows in abandoned buildings and reporting arrests of users, Cannabis use and the cultural imagery to go along with it are prevalent. In an article for the Daily Beast, citizen journalists in Iran working under the pseudonyms Arezoo Moradi and Ziba Farkhondeh described the prevalence of Cannabis among young adults in Iran. 

"On the streets of Tehran you can see people all over the place wearing T-shirts and manteaux (the coats used by some women instead of chadors to cover up more stylishly) with cannabis leaf designs."

With such harsh punishment, even death, for dealing Cannabis, why is it still found on the lips and t-shirts of residents all over, and possession of small amounts leads only to a fine? Disparities like these are all to familiar sounding to witnesses of the United States lead "War on Drugs". This could very well just be a symptom of what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calls a "porous 1,923 km-long Eastern border with Afghanistan - the world's largest illicit opium producer". This has lead to the widespread availability of opiate drugs. Youssef Najafi, a former addict turned counselor points out,

"Methadone is freely available here, and a lot of the marijuana on the market is dipped in methadone, making joints much heavier.”  (NYTimes)

The state of Cannabis use and culture is unique to each place that it has spent the last thousands of years developing. There are certain aspects that seem to be almost universal; people grow it, people sell it, people use it for recreation, people use it for ceremony and medicine, people go to treatment for abusing it, police try to stop almost everyone involved but often have much larger problems on their hands, and finally... people wear it on their clothes.

Matt Carlucci