Last weekend, Palestinian police raided a plant nursery in the West Bank village of Yasid, north of Nablus, and discovered more than 2,000 saplings of "narcotic hybrid cannabis" growing in seven greenhouses. A Palestinian Authority police spokesperson said in a statement that the bust was part of an ongoing crackdown on drug use across the West Bank. Two suspects found at the scene were arrested after attempting to flee, the spokesperson told the independent Ma'an News Agency. The report did not mention what was done with the seized cannabis, but it was presumably incinerated.
Cannabis is clearly starting to fill the economic vacuum on the West Bank, where the legal economy has been hit hard by strictures of the Israeli occupation, as the World Bank notes. A report last May in the pan-Arab Al Monitor on the West Bank "drug problem" noted but the latest in a string of recent busts. A Palestinian police statement boasted "the discovery of 370 plants and 54 kilograms (119 pounds) of a dried substance suspected to be a narcotic in two plantations in the province of Jenin." We've also noted a brisk business in cannabis between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the occupied territory.
In January, the satirical website Mideast Beast ran the timely headline "Palestine to Legalize Weed, Become the 'Occupied Holland of the Mideast.'"
Reads the lede: "While smoking a joint decorated in the colors of his nation's flag, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced today that his country will become the first in the Middle East to allow the production, sale and consumption of cannabis." Given the frustrating phenomenon of rubes cluelessly sharing this kind of pseudo-news on Facebook as if were true, we don't doubt some idealistic stoners might believe this. If only.
Alas, Abbas has to acquiesce to Hamas-style cultural reaction in order to maintain power—while Israel has a vigorous medical marijuana program and growing legalization movement. This brings to mind the recent controversies over "pinkwashing"—trumpeting Israel's good record on gay rights as a form of propaganda to justify or distract attention from the ongoing occupation of the Palestinians. The occupation assuredly sucks, but the reality of the Palestinian leadership's cultural conservatism is a case of what we may call "bad facts."
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