Aceh sidesteps drug ban with cannabis coffee


  • Indonesia
  • Thursday, 06 Feb 2020

Banda Aceh: Agus plunges a wooden paddle into his coffee and marijuana-filled wok, taking care to roast just the right mix of ingredients -- and stay one step ahead of police in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

His contraband brew is a hit with locals and buyers in other parts of the South-East Asian archipelago, who pay one million rupiah (RM300) for a kilo of it.

But this is risky business in Aceh, where even drinking alcohol or kissing in public can earn you a painful whipping under its strict Islamic law.

Agus (not his real name) is part of a clandestine economy in the region at the tip of Sumatra which, despite its no-nonsense reputation, is Indonesia’s top weed producer with fields covering an area nearly seven times the size of Singapore, according to official estimates.

Pot was once so common in Aceh that locals grew it in their backyards and marijuana was sold to the public.

But it was outlawed in the ‘70s and Muslim majority Indonesia has since adopted some of the world’s strictest drug laws, including the death penalty for traffickers.

The nation has declared itself in the midst of a drug “emergency” because of soaring methamphetamine use.

But the situation is Aceh is muddled. Police hunt weed farmers, imprison users and torch mountains of confiscated marijuana – more than 100 tonnes last year alone.

Yet just last week a lawmaker from Aceh proposed in Parliament that the drug should be legalised so the country could export it for pharmaceutical purposes.

He was quickly reprimanded by his Prosperous Justice Party, while the national narcotics agency slammed the proposal claiming it would discourage Aceh ganja farmers from adopting its suggestions to switch to vegetables and other crops.

Despite the risks, Agus, claims he has little fear of going to jail.

“How can you ban something that’s everywhere?” he said, adding, “It’s all over Aceh. This huge crackdown just makes it rarer to see in public but people still use it.”

Most days, his biggest concern is hitting the perfect ratio for his java – 70% coffee and 30% marijuana.

“If you put more than 30% ganja in there, then you lose the coffee taste, ” he explained.

For two decades Agus was a white-collar professional, but he swapped his prestigious career for a more lucrative trade to better support his family.

“I wanted to focus on coffee because this is my area of expertise, ” he added.

Agus insists his recipe offers a pleasant, less intense high than smoking it or eating popular dodol ganja.

The local speciality mixes marijuana with a fudgy sweet made from glutinous rice, palm sugar and coconut milk.

“That stuff can really make you hallucinate, ” Agus said.

How marijuana became a thing in Aceh is a matter for debate. Some say it was brought by Dutch colonists hundreds of years ago as a gift for a sultan in the region.

But local historian Tarmizi Abdul Hamid counters that marijuana use can be found in manuscripts that pre-date the Dutch arrival. — AFP

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