ABC's Lama Hasan reports from Cairo, Egypt:
Forget about the economic crisis, deficits, debts and country bail outs, Egypt is facing a huge problem of its own. A marijuana problem. And it’s not what you’re thinking.
In a country where smoking the drug is part of everyday life for many here, a shortage of the stuff is a problem and it’s one that some are calling ‘’unprecedented.’’ The hash shortage is not due to consumers smoking the country’s stash up and bleeding it dry, it’s thanks to the vigilance of the interior ministry’s anti narcotics squad.
In March this year, the agency trumpeted a seven and a half ton seizure. And they’re not stopping there, Egyptian authorities are also arresting the head honchos of the drug trade making it more difficult to spread marijuana on the streets. So, what does this mean for the dealers who can get their hands on the drug and consumers? A hike in prices. The cost of eight to twelve grams has more than doubled this year.
It’s not clear why there has been this sudden crack down on the narcotic. Some claim that the government is holding onto the loot and cashing in on the short supplies. Others are taking a more cynical view saying that these types of drug busts happen right before a public holiday when the bean counters look at the books. The more arrests and crimes solved the more money in the pockets of those in charge. Because both theories involve officials, they are hard to corroborate. A call in to the interior ministry resulted in the run around and being transferred from one department to another. No one would answer my questions.
As the dry spell continues, some in the media are taking advantage of the situation and taking a crack at the smokers. One local newspaper featured an article about how they’re dealing with withdrawals. In case you’re wondering, some smokers have swapped their hash for alcohol and pills. People have been grumbling about the mood swings they are now forced to deal with.
Perhaps my favorite paragraph on this story comes from a Mr. Waleed Marzouk of Masry Al Youm ( Egypt Today), where he says ‘’It remains to be seen whether these latest crackdowns are a serious commitment to a drug-free Egypt or little more than an elaborate public relations stunt. The general consensus seems to be that the government will flood the market with hashish soon enough, and return to its tried and tested policy of opiating the masses, especially in an election year.’’