As the demand for cannabis continues to grow from both recreational and medicinal users, more people are turning to it as a way of survival. In light of this new trend, there has been an increase in popularity surrounding greenhouses that have installed hydroponic systems.

A Farmer Turns to Cannabis Cultivation for Survival

The COVID-19 epidemic had catastrophic social, professional, physical, emotional, and mental consequences for many people. To survive the epidemic, a farmer in Vietnam’s Central Highlands district of Dak Lak had to make a significant shift. Ho Long Phung, 39, turned to cultivating illegal cannabis as pandemic effects “made his goods unsellable, pushing him into a terrible scenario,” according to VnExpress International. Regrettably, he had to pay a price.

A High-Risk Business

Quarantines and panic, according to a 2020 research published in Scientia Agropecuaria, have a substantial influence on human activities and economic development, especially agricultural operations. Infectious infections may cause “labor shortages for the harvest, or difficulty for farmers to transport their goods to market,” in addition to increasing hunger and malnutrition. For those who rely on these behaviors to survive, severe measures, such as illicit cannabis cultivation, may be required.

Phung moved from the Mekong Delta to Dak Lak in 2015 to raise and sell vegetables, according to VnExpress International. Phung had 1 kilogram of dried cannabis to sell after doing thorough study online and cultivating his first 50 plants (which he also did online). The farmer was so pleased with his early cannabis harvests that he bought another 300 seeds for 3 million VND (about $132). He erected two greenhouses, as well as a watering and lighting system, to help his new company develop even further.

Unfortunately, the good fortune was short-lived. Phung was arrested by Dak Lak police in September during a raid on his home. Hundreds of cannabis plants ripe for harvest, as well as various dried cannabis items ready for sale, were confiscated by the cops. According to authorities, Phung is presently being questioned about his “possible unlawful storage of narcotic narcotics” and is awaiting a sentencing.

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Vietnam and Marijuana

Vietnam’s connection with marijuana is complicated. While it is illegal to cultivate, sell, or possess the plant in Vietnam, many people call the enforcement of these laws “lax.” In a blog post on their trip to Vietnam, a group of visitors described it as “a weed-friendly country,” where cannabis laws are stringent on paper but simple to get around in reality. “When it comes to cannabis, rules aren’t followed by police officers,” they say, “particularly if a foreigner uses it.” This seems to be related to Vietnam’s attempt to boost its attractiveness to youthful visitors.

However, not everyone in Vietnam encourages experimenting with cannabis. Despite reports that officers in Vietnam are readily paid with cannabis, The THC Times advises against trying your luck with them. You could get away with it, or you can be hit with one of the country’s draconian penalties for breaking drug regulations. For large-scale production and distribution, penalties may range from six months in prison to the death sentence. While VnExpress International expects Phung’s actions may result in up to three years in prison, only time will tell how much the farmer will pay for dabbling with cannabis.

A Recurring Issue

Phung is far from the only Vietnamese farmer to resort to illicit cannabis production in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. “All I ever wanted was to earn money…whether it was legal or illegal,” Cuong Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who managed illicit cannabis enterprises in the United Kingdom for years, told Al Jazeera. Nguyen undertook the perilous trek to the UK from the “poor, gritty Vietnamese port town of Haiphong” in the hopes of a better life.

Nguyen made roughly $19,000 cultivating and selling cannabis in the United Kingdom, but his company, like Phung’s, was short-lived. The cannabis producer was detained in 2014 for cannabis usage, which resulted in a 10-month sentence for cannabis cultivation. After completing his term, Nguyen was deported back to Vietnam, where he was forced to start over with no money. “Roughly 12% of all cannabis convictions in the country are Southeast Asian, more than any other non-European nationality,” according to the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Both Phung’s and Nguyen’s experiences should serve as a warning to anybody contemplating illicit cannabis as a way of living. The issue remains: Given cannabis’ general safety, why are the sanctions for such activities so harsh? Some argue that farmers like Phung should not face criminal charges since cannabis is a medicine, while others argue that his detention was justifiable because he disobeyed the law. Residents in nations where cannabis legalization is not on the horizon, such as Vietnam, should carefully examine the hazards before turning green.

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Chane Leigh, nicknamed The Bud Fairy, is a cannabis advocate and enthusiast from South Africa with a fiery personality and a desire to travel. She enjoys educating others and challenging social conventions.

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