Falling cannabis prices and Pakistani cannabis farmers waiting for permits

Jahangir Janana, 30, from Pakistan’s Lower Orakzai tribal district, and other farmers in his area are waiting for rain and legal permission for cannabis from the government.

According to the farmers, they are hoping for rain in the coming days but they do not know anything about the decision of the government.

Despite being highly educated, Jahangir and his family’s livelihood depends on the illicit sale of cannabis from the cannabis crop in the fields, which, according to him, earns him five to six lakh rupees a year. Over the years, their income from this crop has halved as smuggling from Afghanistan has reduced prices.

Cannabis is cultivated in three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, namely Tirah, Orakzai, and Kurram in the Khyber Valley, and the cannabis produced from it is smuggled not only within the country but also abroad.

In other countries, cannabis ingredients are used to make food, clothing, medicine, and construction materials, which are far more lucrative than cannabis.

On this basis, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had decided to conduct a survey in 2021 in Tirah, Okarzai, and Kurram valleys of Khyber district for the purpose of legal cultivation of cannabis and use of cannabis crop instead of cannabis and other narcotics. Was to be reviewed and the responsibility was given to the Department of Pharmacy, University of Peshawar.


Professor Fazal Nasir of the Department of Pharmacy was in charge of the project. He told the BBC that a survey on cannabis had been launched in all three districts in June 2021, using modern methods and technology to reduce the total area under cannabis cultivation and annual cannabis production in a short period of six months. The relevant information has been collected and submitted to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zone in December 2021.

He said that Rs. 14.3 million has been spent on this investigation.

Farmers in the areas surveyed were hopeful that the provincial government would address all issues and government action on cannabis cultivation this year, but the project was delayed.

What did the survey report reveal?

The survey report suggested to the government that six factories be set up in three cannabis growing districts to extract CBD oil from cannabis and to manufacture various products from cannabis stems, which would directly supply 6,000 people. Job opportunities will be available.

In the open market, the price of CBD oil is 1250 to 1500 US dollars per liter, while one and a half kg of cannabis produces one liter of oil. Due to the good price of CBD oil, it is also called ‘Green Gold’.

The report suggests fundamental changes to cannabis seeds as the current crop has a high drug content of 43%, which is very high.

Cannabis plants grown from existing seeds are nine to ten feet long, while the proposed seedlings will be fifteen to sixteen feet long.

The report also said that steps should be taken to improve the means of transportation, schools, colleges, and gas supply in the three districts.

The provincial government is responsible for the use and research work in cannabis medicine, University of Peshawar, Department of Pharmacy, Marketing and Business Planning, Management Studies, Department of Environment, Geology for Geographical Information, Responsibility for reviewing legal status was assigned to the Law College and the Department of Sociology for raising public awareness.

Students from Khyber, Karam, and Orakzai studying in the aforesaid departments of the University of Peshawar took part in the entire research process.

What is the progress on the project?

According to Javed Iqbal Khattak, Chief Executive Officer, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zone, the preliminary report on cannabis has been sent to the Small Industry Development Board and Planning and Development for review.

He said that the final report of the aforesaid institutions and economic zone proposals would not only be available on the website of the institution but also practical steps would be taken to create investment and economic opportunities in this sector.

Barrister Saif, a spokesman for the provincial government, was contacted regarding delays in the legal cultivation of cannabis in Khyber, Orakzai, and Kurram but received no response from them. However, a senior provincial official said that delays in the legal cultivation of cannabis One reason is the impediments to the adoption of the National Cannabis Policy.

He said that the research work at the provincial level has been completed but a consultation process is underway with the concerned agencies in this regard which will soon start legal cultivation of cannabis in the province.

Cannabis Cultivation Statistics

No government agency has official data on the current cultivation of cannabis in Khyber, Orakzai, and Kurram. That is, hemp is cultivated on 49,000 acres of land, which yields up to five million kilograms of hashish annually.

In terms of area, Orakzai is first, Tirah is second and Kurram is third. However, the best crop is produced in Tirah. He said that from half an acre of land, five kilograms of cannabis can be obtained in Tirah, three and a half kilograms in Okarzai, and two to two and a half kilograms in Kurram.

Haji Karim, 70, of Tirah Valley, has already prepared the ground for planting crops in his fields this year, but he has not planted cannabis so far this year due to untimely rains.

He said that two acres of agricultural land were used to generate an annual income of Rs.

According to him, the locals have no alternative but to cultivate cannabis. However, the government has said that once the legal cultivation of cannabis is allowed in the area, the income of the people will increase but so far nothing has been done in this regard. Don’t know

Sher Khan (pseudonym) from the same area is involved in the illegal cannabis business. He said that after the integration of the tribal areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, due to the expansion of various institutions and laws, it has become very difficult to continue the cannabis business as relocation to other areas has become very difficult and costs have increased.

He said that due to the smuggling of large quantities of cannabis from Afghanistan through Balochistan for the last several years, the price of cannabis has come down from Rs. 70,000 per kg to Rs. Expenses on the crop are barely met.

‘When cannabis cultivation becomes legal, farmers will benefit’
Regarding the future legal cultivation of cannabis in Khyber, Orakzai, and Kurram, on the one hand, the locals consider this initiative of the government as a hope for a better economic future, on the other hand, people are raising many questions in this regard.

Abad Gul Orakzai is a resident of Feroz Khel Mela and cultivates hemp on six acres of land. Apart from cultivating hemp on his own land, he also buys hemp worth Rs.

He said that opportunities should be provided to local farmers and investors in setting up factories, marketing cannabis products, and other projects as there was no other source of income in these areas except cannabis crop.

Prof. Fazal Nasir said that he has emphasized the initiative to give maximum benefit to the local people keeping in view the concerns of the local population and suggested to the government that a large portion of the economic benefits from the proposed measures should go to the local population. It should be.

He said that one factory would cost about six to eight crores while local investors in the private sector could invest in small factories at one to one and a half crore rupees.

Javed Iqbal Khattak said that all arrangements have been made for the establishment of the Khyber Economic Corridor on 1000 acres of land in Khyber District for access to the international market not only for the local market but also for chemical products derived from cannabis. The first is to set up small and medium-sized cannabis factories, a terminal for large vehicles going to Afghanistan in case of road closures, and a facility to recharge fresh vegetables and fruits in cold storage containers.

He said that when the procurement of materials from cannabis would start as per the law, the farmers would get better compensation while setting up small units in Tirah, Orakzai and Karam would also be encouraged.


Legal cultivation of cannabis and income
The National Assembly’s Committee on Science and Technology had decided in October last year that the national cannabis policy would be approved by the end of the year, but so far no significant progress has been made.

Dr. Naseem Rauf, a member of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said that cannabis or cannabis is used in medicine all over the world and that the painkiller CBD is also made from it which costs ہزار 10,000 per liter. Sold in.

It is also very important in the manufacture of clothing. He said that the trade-related to this plant has reached 29 billion dollars in the world and by 2025 its potential trade volume will be up to 95 billion dollars.

According to him, former Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the government in June 2020 to take steps regarding the financial benefits of cannabis cultivation, on which PC-1 was developed in September 2020 after cabinet approval.

The poppy crop along with cannabis was also included in the research project in the amalgamated districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The cannabis investigation team was awaiting the provincial government’s decision in this regard, but due to delays, the poppy harvest has expired this year as well.

History of Legal Cultivation of Cannabis in Pakistan

The first policy for legal cultivation of cannabis in the country was formulated in 1950 under which the first cultivation was done in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab but this plan failed due to the hot climate of the area.

The government later conducted successful experiments in cannabis cultivation in the cold areas of Hazara Division but no significant work was done on these projects later.

Cannabis was also cultivated illegally in various hilly areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts and for a long time now cannabis has been cultivated in Tirah, Orakzai, and Karam.

How is cannabis obtained from cannabis?

Regular cannabis cultivation begins in Tirah, Orakzai, and Kurram in early May and is completed in two to three weeks. When the plant is two and a half feet long, the herbs are removed by dipping in it and at the same time the number of plants is reduced.

Local farmers cultivate seeds from last year’s crop. In the months of May and June, with the use of artificial fertilizers, male plants are also removed from the crop to improve crop yields.

Harvesting begins in late October, and after the plants are tied up in small sizes, they are left in the field to receive rain and snow as this improves the quality of the cannabis obtained from the plant. Goes

After the first rains or snowfall, the cannabis is moved to a safe place and the process of harvesting cannabis from the crop begins in early December, and January and continues till February or March.

Young people looking for alternative employment

A few young people in the Tirah Valley are looking for jobs that are legal with low cost and high income. To this end, training on mushroom cultivation was organized in January 2021 with the technical assistance of the Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in which more than 30 local farmers participated. Also included was Fazal Rabi, 30, who grew mushrooms at home after receiving training.

In addition, he set up an organization called the Thirteen Mushroom Club to increase mushroom production in the area, which has more than 70 farming members in the valley.

Fazal Rabi says a large number of young people in the area we’re looking for new ways to earn a living as the price of cannabis crops from agricultural lands was lower than in the past.

And then, with the help of local military officials, organized training on mushroom cultivation. According to him, the youth started cultivating mushrooms for the first time on this basis which started showing good results and increased the interest of the people.

The mushroom club provided training in mushroom cultivation to more farmers and this process is still going on.

Zia Islam Dawar, director of the Khyber Department of Agriculture, said that hemp cultivation was not being stopped in the areas where cannabis is grown but vegetables, crops, and orchards were being planted in the area with the help of the agency and military officials. More than cannabis.

He said that in this regard, the Department of Agriculture is working on the cultivation of saffron, onion, potato, and tomato in Tirah.

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