Visakhapatnam: Ganja grown in tribal pockets in Vizag of Andhra Pradesh has hit a new high, closely following top ranker Idukki weed in the national market.
The Idukki Valley in Kerala was once a hub of marijuana production. The stock from this place was popular as Idukki Gold among cannabis lovers.
After anti-drug agencies tightened screws on ganja cultivation and transportation in and around Idukki, the demand for the supply from Vizag Agency has seen a sharp rise.
Deputy Excise Commissioner, Vizag, T Srinivasa Rao said that growing, selling, buying and consumption of ganja, also popular as green drug and hemp, is illegal and punishable. However, its use is widespread across the nation, he said.
“Despite our efforts to control the cultivation and transportation of ganja, its cultivation is rampant in Vizag region and smugglers here have been exporting the weed to all parts of India,” said Rao.
Helped by smugglers, the tribals in the Vizag region have been growing three varieties of cannabis – Raja Hamsa, Kala Pathri and Sheelavathi. Among these, Sheelavathi has high demand and its price has been soaring over the past few years.
A senior police officer explained the economics behind the illegal trade. A kilo of Sheelavathi weed costs around Rs 4,000 in Vizag Agency. The price of 1 kg dry ganja is around Rs 10,000 in Vizag city and Vizag cannabis touches Rs 50,000 per kilogram in metro cities, he said.
The weed is loved by many people in North India, including students, working professionals and musicians. “Hence the demand for Vizag’s ganja is very high,” said Sudhir Kumar, a resident of Delhi.
Though there is no official data on the area under ganja cultivation, it is estimated that cannabis is grown in over 15,000 acres in the Vizag region.
Superintendent of Police, Vizag Rural, Babujee Attada, said they have seized 21 tonnes of ganja worth Rs 5 crore in 2019 and 16 tonnes worth Rs 3.5 crore in 2018. However, the seizure is only the tip of the iceberg, said police sources.
Smugglers are adopting innovative and sophisticated ways to transport ganja as the profit margin is too huge compared to the risks involved in the trade.
Vizag Commissioner RK Meena said that some Nigerian Nationals were recently arrested in the city for their involvement in ganja transportation. “Whenever there was a seizure of ganja anywhere in Andhra Pradesh and India, the ganja was produced in Vizag and at least one of the arrested was a native of Vizag region,” he said.
Unless concrete rules are in place, it is difficult to nab the women who transport ganja from one place to the other posing as tourists. Peddlers are using women for ganja smuggling to evade the police and excise officials, said a senior police officer.
It’s only the carriers, including women, who suffer if they’re caught as they face charges under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act). The Act has strict provisions that make it difficult for drug peddlers to secure bail.