EGYPT: Crackdown on hashish has country's 7 million users jittery
Smoking hashish is an illegal activity many Egyptians enjoy. From young students to older generations and from the unemployed to businessmen, lighting up is something of a national tradition. But a recent government crackdown on drug smuggling is diminishing supplies.
"I can't get on with my daily tasks as I previously did. I and my workmates used to start our working day with smoking hashish, and then I'd smoke a bit more after dinner," said a 29-year-old accountant who asked that his name not be used. "Now we can only do so for one or two days a week instead of every day."
A report issued by the health committee at Egypt's lower parliament, the People's Assembly, announced that there are 7 million hashish users in Egypt, including 12% of the country's students. The report added that Egyptians spend $1.5 billion (around 5% of the republic's national income) on illicit drugs each year.
Speaking anonymously to a number of daily newspapers, sources from the Anti-Narcotics General Administration have confirmed that at least 4 tons of hashish and 40 acres of cultivated drugs have been confiscated by authorities over the last two months. Security sources added that strict control over drug dealers responsible for bringing hashish into Egypt has been another effective reason behind its scarcity.
"We've always been told that the government's policy was to let us smoke too much hash, as it makes us pacifists and not bothered with many things, including politics. That's why I find it strange they're fighting its traffic so hard now," said another hashish smoker.
Hashish in Egypt is normally weighed by piaster, a unit that equals around 20 grams and typically sold for 120 Egyptian pounds, or about $22. But the current "crisis" has prices rising.
"Before, nothing was easier than buying a gram of hashish as long as we had the money for it. Now it takes us hours to find it, and drug dealers have tripled the prices to more than 400 pounds a piaster," a 20-year-old university student told the Los Angeles Times.
"I still don't have a job and I can't afford paying that much. I've been smoking hash for two years now and the lack of it is affecting my ability to even bear with my classes," he continued.
The hashish drought has forced many users to turn to other sorts of drugs to compensate, they said.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Hashish confiscated by ANGA. Credit: Al Destour