By Ziba Farkhondeh
The following piece was written by an Iranian citizen journalist on the ground inside the country, who writes under a pseudonym to protect her identity.
Grass, cannabis, weed, pot, marijuana or whatever you want to call it, has one symbol: a green, seven-pointed cannabis leaf. This symbol is well-known in most countries around the world but it seems that in Tehran there are not that many people who are familiar with it, at least not among police officers and officials. On the streets of Tehran you can see many people wearing T-shirts and manteaux with cannabis leaf designs.
Selling and using grass is now legal in some countries but illegal in Iran. The police frequently put out reports about arresting domestic growers and users of marijuana. The most recent one talks about the cultivation of cannabis in abandoned ruins outside Dehdasht, a town in the remote and mountainous south-western Iran with a population of about 50,000. And last winter the police in the south-eastern city of the news site Mahan reported the discovery of a large marijuana farm on private property.
Still many Iranians do not grasp the meaning of the cannabis leaf. Two years ago a translation of a Shi’a prayer book by a well-known preacher was published with cover adorned with an image of cannabis leaves. And these days one can see the design on T-shirts and manteaux in the display windows of many Tehran clothing shops. On the streets you will come across many young people wearing clothes with such designs. If you talk to them it turns out that some of them are well aware of their choice and support marijuana use while others are clueless about its meaning and have chosen the clothing because they find the pattern attractive or trendy.
Cultivating marijuana is relatively easy and as a result many people grow it in flowerpots or in their back gardens. “Parents are not familiar with the plant so they don’t create problems for growing it,” says Mazdak, a young man who grows his own grass in two flowerpots on the roof of the multi-story apartment building where he lives.
Mazdak grows weed for his personal use and to share with friends, but knows some friends who have turned their rooftops into greenhouses for growing weed they will later sell publicy. “Smoking grass at parties has become very popular,” he says.
According to Mazdak the seeds for marijuana are brought in from Afghanistan but there are other varieties which come from Iraqi Kurdistan. Wherever they end up being cultivated, it is clear that Iranian young people have grown familiar with the cannabis leaf and like to wear and use it as a symbol of their attitudes to marijuana. When the authorities figure this out is another question.