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Canadian pot expensive but trendy drug of choice in Vietnam

Daily Brew

Bet you didn't know Canadian marijuana is a trendy drug of choice in Vietnam.

The Associated Press reports that young Vietnamese prefer expensive imported weed like B.C. Bud to the locally grown stuff. It's also reportedly showing up in Japan and Korea.

"The quality and reputation of the Canadian cannabis is such that it could be worth the trouble and cost of importing," Simon Fraser University criminologist Martin Bouchard, an expert in the pot trade, told AP. "The diaspora connections probably make this easier and cheaper than it normally would."

By that he means the ethnic Vietnamese gangs in Canada and the U.S. that have a big part on marijuana cultivation. A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report from 2000 detailed their now well-known practice in B.C. of setting up grow-ops in rental homes.

Almost every country in the world produces and uses cannabis, according to a recent United Nations report. It estimated east and southeast Asia have between 5.4 million and 24 million cannabis users.

The marijuana industry in Canada is estimated to be worth between $19 billion and $21 billion a year, according to facts compiled by CBC News. The lion's share of pot grown here is smuggled into the U.S., with most of the rest sold domestically. But clearly the gang-controlled industry believes in diversification.

[ Related: For first time, most Americans favor legalizing marijuana: poll ]

Marijuana was smuggled into Vietnam during the war in the 1960s and early '70s, mainly for American soldiers.

Now, while pot may be grown locally, the high quality of indoor, hydroponic-grown marijuana from North America is preferred by those who can afford it, AP reported.

Whereas Canadian pot-heads once relied on imported weed and hash from places like Thailand, India and Morocco, North America now is largely self-sufficient. Like any good free-enterprise operators, growers looking to the export market have helped reverse the flow.

Canadian weed sells for up to $45 a gram in Vietnam — the average weekly wage in the country and about 10 times more than the local stuff. In Canada, mid-grade hydroponic pot sells for about $10 a gram.

"They charge a ridiculous premium, but the quality compared to the local stuff is ridiculously different," an American expatriate who'd once worked on a California medical-marijuana farm, told AP. "It's good for special occasions."

Marijuana use and sale are illegal in Vietnam, but enforcement is not a high priority. The drug apparently is smuggled in via the port of Haiphong, known as a centre for the traffic of illegal goods and a place where overseas Vietnamese growers launder their drug profits, AP said. Some weed also comes in via the mail and smuggled by airline flight crews.

[ Related: Health Canada presides over birth of billion-dollar free market in marijuana ]

Canadian authorities had no comment beyond an empty statement to AP that they were committed to ""directing attention and resources to combating the illegal drug trade both domestically and internationally."

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for monitoring the export of potentially illegal goods from Canada. But Postmedia News reported last year that due to limited resources, CBSA agents have been ordered to stop looking for illegal drugs and focus on stolen cars and nuclear material.

A memo obtained by the news agency said because of "the limited number of resources available for export examinations, other commodities, including outbound smuggling of narcotics, unless there is an intelligence outlook, should not be undertaken."

The CBSA didn't respond to Postmedia News's query about the memo.

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