Pot farmers plead ignorance

TN News

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Farmers in the Mekong Delta and Central Highlands have been cultivating marijuana without knowing what it is.

In early May, police in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak seized a total of 37 marijuana plants from the house of Nguyen Ngoc Nga. Each of the plants had grown to between 60 and 70 centimeters.

Nga said his son brought the seeds home in March, claiming that they were a strain of chrysanthemum he'd received from a friend.

"Only when the police came did I learn that the plants were marijuana," he said.

In April, the police followed thieves to the site of 19 marijuana trees growing outside the home of Duong Minh Thao.

Thao said several months back, a man had given him the plants and told him that they made great animal feed.

Cao Thanh Vinh, head of Buon Don District police in Dak Lak, said that his men seized approximately 1,000 marijuana plants at one resident's field in June.

The resident, whose name was not released, said that a stranger from nearby Lam Dong Province had given him the seeds and told him that they were tomatoes.

Vu Van Khanh, a narcotics investigator from the Dak Nong Police, said they've busted a number of individuals for trafficking in the plant in recent months.

More than 413 kilograms of dried marijuana and more than 2,300 live plants have been seized and destroyed in the province, Khanh said, adding that the police have reccomended charges and imposed cash penalties against 15 suspects.

The province police said they recently arrested two people for planting marijuana among their coffee trees.

The farmers said an acquaintance had given them the seeds, claiming that it was an herb. The man promised to buy the mature plants back at a high price.

Marijuana as animal feed 

Drug investigators in the Mekong Delta Province of Vinh Long said that the provincial police have discovered and cleared 19 grow spots and seized 668 marijuana trees since June 2010.

Nguyen Van Rang, the chief drug investigator in Vinh Long, said that most of the farmers said they planted the trees to use as feed for their chickens and pigs.

Tran Quang Nhi was recently summoned by the police for planting nine marijuana plants.

Nhi said he began growing the plants to feed his fighting cocks after friends of his told him that the herb made the birds strong.

The mistaken belief in the power of pot as an animal feed has cost Le Van Be Em, a pig farmer in the province, nine months in jail.

His wife Nguyen Thi Quan recalled that Em had told his friends, over drinks, that his pigs and chickens grew fast and healthy after eating marijuana.

One of his friends asked for some seeds, claiming that he was raising some fighting chickens, and insisted on paying Em VND400,000.

Several days later, that man was arrested for trafficking marijuana and Em was jailed as a supplier.

Lam Xuan Trung, a police officer from Dak Lak, said that the plant has become a popular crop among residents who are not aware of its ill-effects..

Pham Hung Vy, a plant protection official from Dak Nong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said some people have taken advantage of the ignorance to supply farmers with the seed as a highly valuable herb and encourage them to plant it.

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