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Soviet-Era Marijuana Still In Demand


Two-meter-high marijuana "forests" can be found in Chu Valley.

Two-meter-high marijuana "forests" can be found in Chu Valley.

Kyrgyz officials announced on August 29 that 4.5 tons of marijuana had been confiscated from illegal drug traffickers in the last seven days. It was specifically mentioned that the majority of the marijuana was confiscated in Kyrgyzstan's northern Chui Valley (known as the Chu Valley in Kazakh).

Shared between southern Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan, the Chu Valley has been one of the most infamous sources of marijuana in the former Soviet Union for as long as anyone can remember.

The Chu Valley's wild marijuana -- well known among drug users in the former Soviet republics as "dichka" -- was always of the "highest quality."

It was prized throughout the vast territory of the Soviet empire, which stretched from Brest (Belarus) to Vladivostok (Russian Far East) and from the Russian town of Salekhard in the north to the Turkmen city of Kushka in the south.

The Soviets did a lot to eliminate wild "dichka" plantations in the region. They burned the fields, used all possible and impossible pesticides, but it grew even better after all those measures.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chu's "dichka" continues to be in demand on both the territory of the former Soviet Union and beyond.

August is the month for marijuana harvesting in the region, as that is when the marijuana starts producing the resin that has such a narcotic effect on the human brain.

For mass producers of marijuana, the easiest way to process the drug is to cut the buds in August, dry them, and then sell them as "grass."

Sweating To Make Hash

However, the most concentrated and popular form of marijuana is so-called "plastilin" (plasticine), and the way it is harvested and produced has not changed for centuries.

It begins with a freshly showered person riding naked for hours on a clean, washed horse inside a two-meter-high "forest" of marijuana.

Afterwards, the human body and that of the horse are covered with a thick layer of resin mixed with sweat.
It only takes a few tiny pieces of "plastilin" to get high.
This produces a substance that is usually dark brown in color, which is then thoroughly scraped off the human and horse's bodies.

The mixture is subsequently pressed, molded into bars, and dried.

The "plastilin" that results from this process effectively comprises very concentrated marijuana bars.

A couple of small, pinhead-sized pieces from one of these bars added to a regular cigarette is enough to make the smoker happy.

This sort of marijuana is also very easy to carry or stash and is therefore very popular among drug users.

But it is a lot harder to produce this form of the drug because you need more time to make it.

Imagine 10, 20, or 30 individuals running or riding naked in a field of wild marijuana. It goes without saying that they are more exposed and it is easier to catch them. Nonetheless, people do it and they have been doing it since time immemorial.

And, of course, in Central Asia, there are people who can easily make local law enforcement officials "keep their eyes shut" during the harvest season, sharing with them either "plastilin" or the money earned from its sale.

For former Soviet citizens, it calls to mind a famous quote from the popular communist-era film "The White Sun of the Desert": "The east is a strange place, Pete!" ("Vostok -- delo tonkoe, Petrukha!").

-- Merkhat Sharipzhanov

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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