Marijuana is sold openly at Nancy market in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Gia Huy
Trieu is in an alley off a street along Nancy Market, waiting for his turn as several young men hand out small bags of marijuana to a customer.
As he makes his order, one man turns to a net hanging on a wall and pulls out three plastic bags with some dry leaves and a sheet of paper to roll them in for a total of VND120,000 (US$5.70).
“There is as much as you want, and you can bargain,” says the 24-year-old.
He is a pusher who hangs around the market in Ho Chi Minh City, which is dubbed “marijuana town” as one can buy any quantity of the stuff though it is illegal.
He said the vendors get their supply from Laos and Cambodia, and also sell directly to users in the downtown area by standing around Nguyen Cu Trinh Street, Ong Lanh Bridge, or September 23rd Park near Ben Thanh Market.
The drug, made from flowering tops or other parts of the cannabis plant or a resinous extract, is available in the market in two varieties -- a high-quality one which wholesales at VND7 million a kilogram, and a normal one which costs VND5 million.
“The quality one is fragrant like ripe mango,” Trieu explains. "The kind at Nancy market is the normal one."
Vendors also sell a "strengthened" version for a price of VND100,000 a bag, he says.
Trieu manages to sell off his VND40,000 bags within half an hour to some strangers at VND70,000 each.
“I’ll go back to Nancy and buy more.
“[The weed] is really favored as it gets you high and is not harmful like meth.”
Tran Van T., a college student from the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, has been smoking weed for around two years after first trying it at a birthday party at a bar.
He sometimes buys from pushers to sell to his friends for a profit.
“Eighty percent of drug users in Vietnam know about weed,” T. says.
"Some call it 'prostitute' since it arouses their sexual desire."
Some users also mix weed with heroin to lengthen their high.
Marijuana is illegal in Vietnam and pushers melt away at the first sign of the police.
They always change places after selling 10 bags or so, and do their transactions quickly and unobtrusively so that passers-by do not notice them unless they are meant to.
Phan Anh Tuan, a police officer in charge of the Nancy market area, says they have a sharp eye out for officers.
They are not locals, he adds.
One pusher was arrested earlier this month and he fought viciously, biting two officers.
Tuan says a person needs to be caught possessing at least one kilogram of marijuana for it to be a crime, but can be punished for selling smaller amounts.
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