A bespectacled, well-dressed Islamist recently kicked out of the Turkish Journalists Association for comparing domestic violence activists to prostitutes may not be the most likely candidate for a staunch cannabis advocate.
But Abdurrahman Dilipak, 72, is one of Turkey’s strongest voices in favor of legalization as attitudes change and the country begins to experience the reintroduction of once-prevalent culture.
“Cannabis has a thousand benefits… This plant is generally a blessing from Allah. It cleans the air, water and soil, ”he wrote in his column for Yeni Akit, a conservative newspaper. “Alcohol is more dangerous.”
Industrial hemp was cultivated in the humid Black Sea region of Turkey until the introduction of strict drug laws in the 1970s: many people today attribute the change in policy to pressure from the United States. Even today, cannabis remains a taboo subject and sentences for recreational use can go up to two years in prison.
While the production of hemp paper and textiles survived, the last of these factories closed in 2000, unable to compete with cheaper petroleum-based materials imported from places like India.
Struggling with a economic crisis, and looking for ways to diversify, in 2019 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a surprise announcement that the country would take steps to increase cannabis production in the hope of restoring the country’s export industry. hemp once booming.
Now the first crop of plants selected and studied by researchers has been harvested and, according to Selim Aytaç, director of the main cannabis research center at Ondokuz Mayıs University, the results are promising.
“We have been improving and breeding seeds since 2013 to grow a product with fine fibers for industrial use and reduce the amount of drug material, and so far we have had great success,” he said. “We hope it can be used for medicine, food, flour, forest products, rope, textiles.
“The return of hemp can have a global impact as governments around the world seek to reduce their carbon footprints. It uses much less resources than plastic or cotton.
Despite the taboo of talking about drug use, a one-of-a-kind study in Turkey from Istanbul University, which analyzed wastewater from 14 sewage treatment plants, suggests that the use of illegal substances is rife in the megalopolis of 17 million people.
Istanbul has the second highest level of substance use in the world after Barcelona, the researchers found, with cannabis being the most widely used drug. The study also showed that Istanbul is just behind New York in terms of heroin use.
As Dilipak and others point out, legalizing cannabis could help regulate the existing illegal industry, removing production from the hands of organized crime.
“Adana represents a third of Istanbul’s population, but the cannabis consumed in Adana is almost the same as in Istanbul. Adana ranks third in the world in terms of proportion… Supposedly, we don’t have marijuana in this country, ”Dilipak wrote.
Attitudes towards cannabis cultivation appear to be slowly changing, Aytaç added. “A village in Samsun led the way [in] change perceptions and open the conversation.
“During our test on agricultural sites, the inhabitants sometimes came to pull up the plants during the night. But more and more people are starting to understand that we are not growing something harmful, we are growing a product that has value.