Hemp uses less water than cotton, a fact that should excite farmers in this rapidly drying up region
Central Asia has an ideal climate for growing marijuana. The cannabis plant, which is native to the region, covers the hillsides and stubbornly shows itself in city parks. Archaeological evidence suggests that cannabis was used in Central Asia 6 or more years ago, and that it spread along the first trade routes with Europe and East Asia.
Today Uzbekistan, which presents itself as the tourist heart of the Silk Road, is experimenting with this plant again. This is not, however, a good time ganja. A Franco-Uzbek joint venture will start growing industrial hemp, which contains low amounts of the spirit-altering tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in the Khorezm region, the Uzbek foreign ministry said this month. The fibers of this plant have various uses: for paper, ropes, building materials and textiles. In many ways, hemp looks a lot like the notorious Uzbek cash crop, cotton. But hemp uses less water, the foreign ministry said, a fact that should excite farmers in the rapidly drying up region.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed in March a law allowing the commercial cultivation of hemp containing up to 0,2% THC “for industrial purposes unrelated to the production or manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances”, which remain illegal. (By comparison, marijuana legally sold for recreational use in Massachusetts can contain up to 0,3 percent THC).
If this miracle culture sounds too good to be true, it can be.
The environmental benefits of hemp are often exaggerated in the popular press; hemp is not “the key to our green future,” wrote Jerome H. Cherney of Cornell University and co-author Ernest Small in the journal Agronomy in 2016. Hemp “is susceptible to soil erosion. soils and nutrient depletion, and also has a relatively high water requirement. In particular, the relatively high nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium requirements of a hemp crop tend to refute excessive claims of sustainability for hemp ”.
Uzbekistan is not the first country in modern Central Asia to continue industrial production of hemp.
In neighboring Kazakhstan, a company called KazHemp has been harvesting the plant since 2017. A ton of hemp was reportedly exported in 2018. But the Interior Ministry cooled the project and that year, authorities destroyed a batch of the harvest. by KazHemp for containing too much THC. Asked by local reporters earlier this year about whether KazHemp is operating legally, an Interior Ministry official declined to answer, but said the ministry reserves the right to analyze the company's production at all moment.