September 14, 2009 – All drug users and dealers in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other neighboring countries know that marijuana grows in the Chuy River Valley (in the northwest partof Kazakhstan). There is no way this narcotic herb can be dug it out of the land just to see more of it growing there in the next year. A decision was made in Kazakhstan to build a hemp processing plant to manufacture medicine and fiber. However these intentions counter bureaucratic hindrances and lack of understanding on the side of drug fighters.
This place is ill famed not only in Kazakhstan, but far beyond it as well. It has been known for ages that Chuy (Shu) valley is a paradise for drug users and drug dealers. Much has been done to do away with the evil called marijuana. Unfortunately the humanity could not outwit the nature: the hemp neither burns nor drowns.
Turn poison into a medicine and a rope
There are some people who decided to use the hemp for constructive purposes. They plan to build a plant in Jambul region to process wild hemp growing in Chuy valley. Currently a company from Almaty Special Partnership “XELORIA” is developing 15 hectares of land in the southern industrial zone of Shu town in Shu district for building the enterprise. The cost of the industrial component of the project is about 54 million USD, and that of the pharmaceutical component totals to 20 million USD. Founders of “XELORIA” along with international and Kazakh financial institutions will generate funding for the project implementation.
First the plant plans to launch pharmaceutical production of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active element of cannabis.
In the second and later stages they plan to develop industrial (textile) line. Such industrial and commodity goods as fiber, rope and cord products, hemp oil, clothes, shoes, and etc.
The first stage is expected to be set in operation in the beginning of the next year.
However, there are certain objective circumstances that impede the project implementation. Some of them are related to acquiring clearances, development and straightening out the technological production regulations.
General director of “XELORIA” Special Partnership Marat Kulmanov says that they have license for storage of the marijuana herb, processing and selling it. However, they lack the key document – license for collecting marijuana. Last August the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan appealed to the UNO International Committee to allocate a certain quota, but has not got an answer yet. When and if the quota will be given, the Kazakh government will issue an ordinance on approval of the quota for collection of marijuana over the calendar year and based on it a license for hemp collection can be issued.
The technology to be used for pharmaceutical production also matters. There are several pharmaceutical companies in the world, including those in Germany and England that do scientific research on and produce medicine made of marijuana. Their experience and technologies of raw material processing can be borrowed but there are some restrictions to do with technology patents. Moreover, cannabis that grows in Shuy valley differs from the hemp processed by foreign producers as it is the hybrid of the local wild growing hemp and the Indian hemp. This means that pharmaceutical production technologies should be selected taking into account the contents of the plant. Once the quota and license are received, the company plans to make tests and analysis to define the standard sample and prepare corresponding pharmacopoeia article. (State standard of the medicine quality, which includes the list of obligatory indicators and quality control methods).
The area allocated for construction of the plant is currently enclosed. Design investigation works are underway. Facilities are being prepared to ensure access to electricity supply, sewerage and heating. As the general director of Special Partnership “XELORIA” informs the construction and mounting will be done by local contractors.
The Entrepreneurship and Industry Management Unit of Jambul Region informs that construction and operation of the plant would create up to 150 jobs for the locals. The management of the company “XELORIA” anticipates occasional seasonal rise of employment as the hemp will be picked by hand and people will be needed to collect it.
Cultivation of what others fight against
Not everyone is happy with the idea of building a new plant in the region. For example, employees of the Unit for Fighting Against Drug Business of the Internal Affaires Department of Jambul Region do not find the idea brilliant at all.
Jenis Begmatov, acting deputy head of this unit informs that policemen at the borders work very hard to close channels of drug smuggling, and to detect and prevent drug distribution. He fears that the plant for marijuana processing can become asylum for hemp lovers. He further continues his line of thought saying that opponents of the idea do not object to the idea of using the cannabis for other useful purposes. However, industrial production demands significant volume of raw materials supply. The hemp growing wild around would not be sufficient. Coupled with the uncertain nature of marijuana, there can be no guarantees that the producers will be able to collect the required volume of the raw material. To stock raw materials for production they may have to cultivate anew several hectares of hemp plantations. They would have to cultivate marijuana that we are fighting against! Besides this, hemp pickers can any time be tempted to earn money illegally.
J. Begmatov also mentioned that stricter criminal liability measures adopted in 2008 impacted the level of drug related crimes in the region. This year there is less smuggling, and twenty channels of contraband from neighboring countries were eliminated. Regardless of doubled imprisonment terms twice the volume of drugs was confiscated this year compared to the last year- about seven tons versus four and a half.
Policemen of the special department “Delta Dolina” say that the marijuana harvest is low this year due to rainy and cloudy spring. However, the number of marijuana pickers who come to the valley for harvest is the same as ever. The visitors from the adjacent countries come here most often. For example, an Uzbek man came allegedly to visit his relatives in Taraz, while his true purpose was to stock marijuana for the winter, as the commodity is unaffordable by the market prices. A ton of marijuana at the black market costs more then three thousand dollars, making the “pleasure” beyond his buying capacity, he complained.
Residents of the Chuy valley do not see any benefit in construction of the new plant. “Marijuana has been a problem. It will remain a problem. I doubt that the cause of sufferings of many can be used for the common good. Maybe only businessmen will benefit.”- wonders Kairat, resident of Shu town.
The immortal herb
The head of the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Eric Hamrin, the head of the Department of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of the US State Department Antony Beever and a Programs Manager of the same department Raushan Kasymbekova recently visited Taraz, the administrative center of Jambul Region. Head of Internal Affairs Department of Jambul Region, police general Meyirhan Jamanbaev and deputy chairman of the Committee on fighting with drug business in Kazakhstan, colonel Nigmedzhan Saparov welcomed the guests.
The chief policeman of Jambul Region M. Jamanbaev informed the Americans of the situation in the Chuy valley.
“Wild cannabis grows only in Jambul Region area in six districts. The marijuana has been here fore ages. Ancient Kazakhs used it in every day life- twisted ropes, wove carpets, and did not even know that hemp contained narcotic substances. Our forefathers used cannabis as a useful materials as ropes and carpets made of it were very durable”- was the introduction M. Jamanbaev started with.
“Today people use it for absolutely other purposes. Therefore we do everything we can to get rid of marijuana and prevent its export out of the region. It is a rough task as it is unevenly scattered around, making it almost impossible to eradicate it. In 1990 a group of scientists from 60 countries, including scientists from a US drugs research lab came to study the wild hemp. They went to the Chuy valley to study the area and its conditions. Different ways were tried to kill the herb, but the science was helpless. If you dig over the place where cannabis grows, it multiplies the next year. You cannot burn the marijuana fields as pastures and private crop fields neighbor it. Scientists warn against pulling out the cannabis as its roots stretch seven meters deep and it grows on sandy soil. If you eradicate the herb pulling its roots out, the sand threatens to bury railroads and settlements.
They try to smuggle marijuana to Russia or Kyrgyzstan. We exchange information with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia on regular basis. We are concerned that Kazakhstan is a transit area for heroin supply. Heroin is supplied to Russia and other countries through Kazakhstan. Illegal traffic of heroin – is a big problem for Jambul Region. Just a couple of days ago seven kilos of this drug was confiscated”-said the police general.
During the conversation the head of Internal Affaires Department said that a special unit “Delta Dolina” responsible for supervision over the fertile valley works under tough conditions. The cannabis grows in sandy places that have no water and are difficult to access. The summer temperature runs as high as 50 degrees above zero. The unit lacks basic work conditions.
The Americans replied with narration about a program of the Anti–Drug Department of the US Embassy. The major goal of the program is to facilitate cooperation between parties involved in fighting against drugs, international cooperation, study of subject legislation and provision of funding. Having listened to the head of IAD Eric Hamrin promised that he will tell his American colleagues about the situation with drugs in Kazakhstan to solicit material support for Kazakh counterparts. By Guzal Mirzarahimova.