An American citizen being detained in a Myanmar prison under accusations of illicit cannabis cultivation will remain imprisoned for at least two more weeks, a local court ruled earlier this week.
According to reports from the Washington Post and Associated Press, John Frederick Todoroki, an American entrepreneur living in the Southeast Asian nation, was arrested last month after Myanmar narcotics police raided what they say was a 20-acre marijuana farm. Todoroki claims the grow was a government-approved hemp plot.
But despite Todoroki’s best attempts to explain the cannabidiol research carried out by his company, III M Global Nutraceutical Co., and the difference between full-strength cannabis and low-THC hemp grown for CBD, Myanmar police either did not notice or believe him. Instead, authorities have thrown the book — and a possible 10-year prison term — at the American greenthumb.
“This company rented the land and is running its laboratory officially,” Todoroki’s lawyer, Thein Than Oo, told the AP. “Their intention is to do research, not to sell or distribute. If their research goes well, they will work with the government.”
It is still not exactly clear what kinds of clearances Todoroki’s company was given to begin their hemp research. But when Myanmar police raided the farm, they reportedly confiscated 349,300 cannabis plants, 5,200 seedlings, 838 pounds of cannabis seeds, and 64 ounces of cannabis oil. According to the AP, Myanmar does not legally recognize a difference between hemp and marijuana.
Still, Myanmar cannabis advocates argue that Todoroki’s hemp farm represents a small-scale sample of a potentially large foreign agriculture investment in non-psychoactive CBD that may have arrived in the country.
“This is unfair,” Aung Say Soe of Marijuana Legalization Movement Myanmar, told the AP. “This American has already asked for permission from the government. It is like slapping down investment.”
Todoroki will be held in a local jail for at least two weeks while his case is being investigated, but it is not yet clear if he will be charged with cultivating illicit narcotics.
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