One of the most interesting areas of the world right now when it comes to pot reform is the region of Asia.
Israel has led the world for the last decade on cannabinoid research. Australia appears to be moving towards national medical legalization (at least), particularly given the recent public radio address by the Prime Minister.
That said, the largest country in Asia and Australia’s main export market, China, has lagged far behind. Drug possession here, even for tiny amounts, can lead to capital punishment.
In August, however, a Chinese spy satellite spotted the largest marijuana plantation in the country’s history, as well as a multitude of illegal cross-border paths in Inner Mongolia.
Chinese officials have not released details about the actual size of the grow, nor the response of officials in the aftermath of the find.
The area in which the pot plantation was spotted however, is on the border of Pakistan, Afghanistan and former Soviet Central Asia.
Foreign experts believe that the announcement is less to show new openness to reforming the nation’s drug laws and more to showcase China’s spy technology.
The irony is significant.
China is the world’s largest producer of industrial hemp and has been for a very, very long time. In fact, archaeological remains have shown that Neolithic farmers (12,000 years ago) produced not only hemp, but decorated pottery with pictures of the plant (circa the 5th millennium). Textiles, rope and paper containing the plant began to appear in at least the century before Christ. The Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) wrote that inhabitants of the region also inhaled smoke from the seeds for pleasurable recreational purposes.
While this is not the first time a satellite has been used for drug interdiction (a man in Oregon was busted last year with the “help” of Google Maps), the Chinese satellite’s capabilities if not its use in drug interdiction marks a significant new and disturbing turn for the Drug War globally and as already seen within America’s borders. In 2011, although it is not known if satellite technology was used in this case, officials also discovered the largest grow plantation in Mexico, covered up by black tarpaulin to attempt to shield the illegal grow from flyover discovery.
One of the worst domestic cases of domestic prosecutorial overreach of a single family in Washington State last year (the Harvey Family) was also instigated by a flyover investigation, although satellite imagery was also not used. In Texas, where marijuana use for medical purposes will begin to be debated early in the next year, drones are already controversial because they can expose dramatic environmental damage from oil drilling. It is not likely that the Texas ‘Lege, once it gets to a discussion of the legalization of pot in state will encourage federal interdiction efforts from the air to help oversee its own in-state regulatory processes downstream of legalization.
The Chinese satellite (called the Gaofen-1) is also the first one produced in China with HD recording capabilities.
Pot, it seems this year, is just about everyone’s cup of tea, although in this case used not medically or even recreationally, but for a political purpose.
by Marguerite Arnold