North Korea Smokes a Lot of Weed
Long-time VICE contributor Alex Hoban has been covering North Korea for us for years, but it turned out he had so much to say on the topic he decided to start a news site dedicated to the country. NK NEWS is the result, and since its relaunched last September it’s been running great daily stories like the one we’re featuring here by Ben Young. So go check out the site, follow them on Twitter, and, if you’re feeling super daring, they’ve also got this mysterious sign-up sheet that offers you a chance to join them on their next adventure inside the hermit kingdom.
North Korea, the most tight-lipped, conservative, and controlling country in the world is also a weed-smoker’s paradise. Despite the government’s deadly serious stance on the use and distribution of hard drugs like crystal meth (which has a notorious legacy in the country), marijuana is reportedly not considered a drug. As a result, it’s the discerning North Korean gentleman’s roll-up of choice, suggesting that, for weed smokers at least, North Korea might just be paradise after all.
NK NEWS receives regular reports from visitors returning from North Korea, who tell us of marijuana plants growing freely along the roadsides, from the northern port town of Chongjin, right down to the streets of Pyongyang, where it is smoked freely and its sweet scent often catches your nostrils unannounced. Our sources are people we know who work inside North Korea and make regular trips in and out of the country.
There is no taboo around pot smoking in the country—many residents know the drug exists and have smoked it. In North Korea, the drug goes by the name of ip tambae, or “leaf tobacco.” It is reported to be especially popular amongst young soldiers in the North Korean military. Rather than getting hooked on tar and nicotine like servicemen in the West, they are able to unwind by lighting up a king-sized bone during down time on the military beat.
Despite the fact the government doesn’t crack down on the use of marijuana (or opium) and its prevalence among the common people, traveling weed enthusiasts eager to sample some NK bud will likely be disappointed. If a Western tourist asks his or her guide where is the best place to get the “special plant,” as it is euphemistically referred to, the guide will most likely eschew the question. Most of them are educated enough in Western legal attitudes toward marijuana to not feel the need to promote anything that might attract negative press. Then again, bring them a bottle of Hennessy and they might be more willing to help you out.
Cat Marnell’s Amphetamine Logic: Goodbye to All That (the End for Now)
Amphetamine Logic was kind of making me psychotic.
I sat down for lunch with my agent at an overpriced bistro on Park Avenue South.
"So Cat," Byrd Leavell, literary agent extraordinaire, said. "What’s new?"
"Well," I said, surreptitiously picking a peroxide scab off my head. "I guess I’ve finally burned out like everyone wants me to." I was eating on a steak and trying not to gag while I chewed.
"Hmm," said my agent. "Well, what are we going to do—"
"I don’t know, man," I gulped, and my hands started shaking. "Let me just try to explain the situation. I have no money and everyday eat empanadas from the corner that I pay for in laundry quarters. My apartment looks like a fucking personality disorder. You can barely open the door—"
"Uh huh," said Byrd.
"—I mean there are perfume bottle shards in my feet and there’s blood and oatmeal on the floor—"
"Cat," Byrd said. "You can’t live like this anymore."
But couldn’t I? On the way home I thought about all of the things instead of writing that I’d been doing.
I was Rolling Stone's ”Hot Bukowski.” I was the toast of the town. I was puking flowers afterhours; I was letting everybody down. I read a Tatler article: "London’s Seven Loveliest Lesbians." I mocked a skeleton dressed as Kenny Scharf at Gold Bar. There was ethanol, Adderall, night rainbows, Nalaxone. I sat around stoned in Soho House while the concierge charged my iPhone. I stuffed Artforum in my oven and stacked Richardson on the stove. I saw Pointbreak at MOMA; I saw 3 PM Hunger Games in LA at the Grove: “(PG-13) for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images—all involving teens.” I bleached everything I owned and my knuckles burned and scabbed from the bleach.
I snorted dope in DUMBO and I smoked dust on the beach. I preyed on editors during the day and slept with monsters at night. Life’s never dowdy in an Audi scoring pudé up in Washington Heights, is it babes? I drank Diet Coke and had coke sex and sat in Yorkville townhouse basements playing Mario Kart on a grimy old Super Nintendo. We smoked crack until our fingers turned black and watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. I chilled with famous downtown stupor freaks tweaking and listening to Diplo.
“WHY IS EVERYBODY DRESSED LIKE MR. PEANUT?!" I screamed once at Le Baron. I had about 40 pounds of fake hair on.
"Shhh," Same said. "You are dusted." And though I was confused of course I trusted him.
The Boom Boom Room was always full of doom. Our PCP smelled like burnt balloons. I was dressed Boricua heroin chic. Shaun was asking me if I saw Wu Tang at Milk Studios that one weird Fashion Week.
"Cat." Shaun said.
"Oh Jesus God, does it fucking matter?” I screamed. “Is this a ‘Big Picture’ problem?” The bathroom line disasters are as disastrous as disasters can be. “Shaun, the little coke girls are STARING AT ME.”
“They are staring at us because we know them,” Shaun said. “You’ve had them over to your house to do drugs at least four times. Invite them over. They’re the little LES… dominatrixes. They have tons of tons of drugs and money and they’re nice.”
"OK," I said, and I walked over and did.