Skip to main content

Erdogan's newfound love for cannabis

For decades, the Turkish government took pride in burning cannabis fields in its battle against PKK terror. Now, a boasting Erdogan leads Islamists in celebrating industrial hemp cultivation as a method of resistance to the West.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flip-flopped on several crucial issues, but not on his dislike and disapproval of alcohol and tobacco consumption or on his outspoken war on drugs. Easily justified with Islamic teaching, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party has passed several bills making the production of tobacco and alcohol — even home-brewing — almost impossible with increasingly strict regulations. Drug wars are enforced with harsh punishment for users and dealers. Government spending to prosecute drug dealers has gradually increased, reaching up to 720 million liras in 2016 (about $140 million with today’s exchange rate). That is precisely why Erdogan’s advocacy for cannabis cultivation in his campaign speeches surprised audiences.

Indeed, the restrictions on hemp production were lifted in 1990 and re-regulated by the Turkish parliament to make it even more liberal in September 2016. Today, it is already legal to grow hemp in 19 cities, but you need government permits. The updated 2016 legislation relaxes the permission process for farmers. It also adds a flexible licensing process for researchers.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.