If it sounds like a seriously bad joke, the idea has all the elements of a modern day (social media enhanced) soap opera. Namely, that the Taliban, an extremist group, which takes rather radical stands against things like women’s rights and cannabis reform, would enter an international cannabis deal. And further announce it on Twitter.
However, this is exactly what did happen last week and further on a global stage. They say that truth is stranger than fiction—and in truth it is very hard to believe that someone did not make this up.
Here are the developments so far.
In a move that might make some of the biggest cannabis companies in the world green with jealousy, namely in the kind of media attention the announcement generated, Taliban Press Director Qari Saeed Khosty claimed that a contract had been signed between the government and a cannabis firm called Cpharm to set up a $450 million cannabis processing centre in Afghanistan, and further that the facility would be “up and running within days.” The news ran globally, picked up by outlets including the Times of London.
This also coincided with a report on Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News Service that representatives of the company met with counter-narcotic officials at the Ministry of the Interior to discuss the production of medicines and creams.
Cpharm Australia, the first company named in the press as being involved in the deal, subsequently rebuked the claim—via Reuters. The company is a cannabis consulting business and not a manufacturer and would not be able to raise the amount mentioned, according to reports.
Even after reports began to surface that the story was in fact fake, another report surfaced, this time in the German language zine Taz.de, only this time making claims that the Taliban government was working with a German company called Cpharm and further that the deal was inked on the day the Traffic Light Coalition agreed to legalize recreational cannabis. According to Taz.de, Taliban spokesperson Khosty claimed that the agreement provides for the German company to build a factory in Afghanistan for processing medical cannabis and in exchange receive a monopoly on the national industry.
According to online company reports, the only Cpharm GmbH listed was formed in 2005, liquidated in 2009 and deleted from the company registry in 2015. There is a Cpharm.org which is based in Bonn which does claim on its website that the company has developed global cannabis projects including in Afghanistan. However when High Times reached out to a partner company associated with the same, BONGLOBAL Deutschland, headquartered in Berlin, we were told that the story was fake and further that the company CEO Werner Zimmerman was unavailable for comment and was travelling outside of the country.
Whoever the company referenced in official communications by the Taliban is, and no matter the actual stage of the project (if it in fact exists), the reality is that the group has been rather famously two-faced when it comes to all things cannabis (and opium) related. Indeed, at the beginning of 2020, the Taliban issued a ban on the cultivation of cannabis in the areas of the country they controlled. After overtaking all of Afghanistan in August, the group vowed to crack down on cannabis production across the country. Just a few months later, in October, Yussef Wafa, a governor of Kandahar, said that he had been arresting both drug users and had prohibited local farmers from the cultivation of both opium and cannabis.
Farmers on the ground, however, have reported no real change in the group’s approach to cannabis (or them) in the last months since taking over the country in a military coup. Indeed this year they are reporting a bumper crop.
This in fact would be more in keeping with the history of the Taliban when it comes to all things cannabis (and indeed poppy) related. Both crops have historically been sources of income to fund the group since it operated as a U.S. funded insurgent against the Soviet occupation of the region in the 1980s.
Whoever the company is that may or may not be working on this project (if this is also actually in process), however, remains a mystery.
No matter the corporate entity, which might be involved in the same, it will have significant difficulty transferring any profits they make from Afghanistan, starting with obtaining exemptions from the U.S. Treasury Department.
The plot thickens.
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