A look at the illegal weed coffee trade in Indonesia

Published Feb 17, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
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As most of us get to sit back, relax, and enjoy the freedom that comes from a major societal shift, much of the world still remains far behind with the times. One of them is Indonesia, where the bustling weed coffee trade is still somehow flourishing, despite many attempts by the government and police to arrest and punish anyone who is found to be involved.

Now, you might think that a little slap on the wrist with a fine or charge is no big deal, but that’s not how crimes are punished in a place like this. Indonesia holds onto some of the toughest and oldest laws that call for death, whipping, and other less than humane ways of “delivering justice’ on anyone who chooses to enter into something like the cannabis trade.

What’s this weed coffee got in it?

In most parts of the world, it’s the dry marijuana buds that are a hot commodity, but here weed coffee is a major hit with the locals who pay upwards of $75 per kilogram of the finished product. It’s typically made by mixing pot and fresh coffee beans in a large wok or other cooking devices at a 30/70 ratio, and there it’s slowly roasted to perfection to activate the cannabinoids within.

That sounds like quite a bit of cannabis, but weed coffee isn't nearly as strong as you might think, and that is largely due to the way that THC is absorbed when it is consumed through the stomach rather than smoking it. The number of plant buds in a batch of weed coffee would induce an incredibly intense high if you were smoking it, or turning it into cannabutter, but the light roasting is just enough to give the user a light and easy to control buzz.

The legality of cannabis in Indonesia

Weed coffee isn’t a highlighted Indonesian food, but it’s one of the hidden delights of the region and has been for many years. Though cannabis at one time grew wild and free across the country, these days the Indonesian government maintains a firm stance against it. Locals, on the other hand, say that the plants that grew wild were eradicated by government officials, but that it still grows everywhere thanks to decades of well-established cannabis farmers.

In a country that has declared a state of emergency over its methamphetamine epidemic, it seems counter-intuitive to waste so much time and energy on such a harmless plant, and some of the country’s most respected advocates have tried to be the voice of reason, only to be stopped and threatened with punishment for having such an open and taboo opinion.

So, unfortunately, weed coffee connoisseurs will continue to function in the shadows while staying one giant step ahead of local police to chase a rare opportunity for financial security, in a country with outdated policies and a lack of alternative options. It doesn’t look like the Indonesian government will be welcoming the idea of cannabis business anytime soon, but the country’s people are well on board and desperately awaiting the much-needed change in the law.

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