The Archipelago

Marijuana farmers seen
as engine of Aceh's drug

Aceh is currently the fourth-biggest distributor of illegal drugs in the country and a major producer of marijuana, Vice Governor Muhammad Nazar says.

Speaking in the province's capital of Banda Aceh recently, he said many drug syndicates in Aceh used marijuana, which was readily available in Aceh, as bargaining chips with which to purchase stronger drugs, such as crystal methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu, and heroin, from dealers in other provinces.

"It's not difficult for drug dealers to get marijuana in Aceh. They just need cash to make the villagers plant it for them," Nazar said.

Aceh has long been known to be the biggest producer of marijuana in the country.

The biggest production center in the province is in Aceh Besar regency, which produces marijuana primarily to be sold in other provinces, from North Sumatra to Bali.

"Marijuana grows very well in Aceh. Apart from being deliberately cultivated by farmers, the plants can also be easily found in forests in the region," Nazar said.

Other prominent Aceh-based marijuana production centers are in Bireun, Southeast Aceh, Southwest Aceh, Central Aceh and North Aceh regencies.

Almost every month, the police seize hundreds of tons of sun-dried marijuana from drug dealers.

The police have also destroyed thousands of hectares of marijuana plantations in the province.

"Of the 1,371 drug cases handled by the police and the National Anti-drug Agency *this year*, almost 51 percent were drug-related," Nazar said.

The police, the National Antidrug Agency and the provincial administration have collaborated in several raids that have brought down drug distribution centers in the province.

In May this year, 82 hectares of marijuana plantations were destroyed and some 1,200 kilograms of dried marijuana confiscated by the three institutions.

The administration has also called on religious leaders to deliver anti-drug sermons, he added.

Nazar also raised concern that widespread distribution of illegal drugs in Aceh would harm the young generation.

He said the administration had asked farmers to switch from growing marijuana to growing mangoes and other fruits.

"I have never seen a farmer achieve success *through planting marijuana*. Many have had to deal with the law.

"So, it's better to plant rice than marijuana," he said.

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