It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking in black-and-white terms about foreign countries. America is a free country, so we assume that all these repressive dictatorships must be like America in Opposite World, restricting every freedom they can get their hands on. But it's not that simple. We don't want to take away from the fact that a lot of these places are hellish nightmares, but some of them actually have (or had) policies even more progressive than those in the West. For example ...
5Weed Is Totally Legal in North Korea
When your stoner friends complain about how tyrannical the government is for refusing to legalize marijuana, you may be tempted to point out that there are a lot of people in the world living under horrendous regimes so strict that questioning the government can get you executed by flamethrower. That's not a joke; that's something they actually do in North Korea. But then your friends might rightly point out that even in North Korea, weed is totally fine.
In a country where "human rights" is considered a strange foreign concept that goes against the spirit of the prosperity of Best Korea, getting hit by a flamethrower isn't the only way to get blazed. While most of the rest of the world is still wringing its hands over whether to make marijuana legal, the DPRK is ahead of the game, in that they never made it illegal to begin with: The North Korean government doesn't consider marijuana a drug and has never regulated its use. You might think this is because the country does not give an actual crap about the well-being of its people, so it doesn't regulate drugs whatsoever, but you'd be wrong: The government is extremely harsh on users of hard drugs like meth, for example.
Sergey Kamshylin/iStock/Getty Images
Reminder: This is a country that really has its shit together when it comes to the phrase "extremely harsh."
But weed is no more scarce or taboo than tobacco in North Korea -- in fact, the local name for it is "ip tambae," meaning "leaf tobacco." Growing hemp is also completely fine, with marijuana plants being cultivated along railroad tracks all over the country due to their extractable oils, which are used for industrial purposes, and their deep roots, which help hold the tracks.
Kevin Russ/iStock/Getty Images
Meaning North Korea probably had the happiest hobo population in the world before they were all inevitably executed.
What about that super impressive military force that they like to remind us has its guns pointed at the USA, just itching for an excuse to strike? Apparently, smoking weed is a super popular pastime among the ranks of the North Korean military. It kind of blows away that frightening image of North Korean soldiers marching toward America when you picture them enveloped in a haze of suspiciously pungent smoke and laughing at their own uniforms.