Last month we broke the unfortunate news that despite headlines around the world, the Taliban was probably trolling everyone when it announced plans to open a cannabis production facility in Afghanistan. The company that the militant group named as its partner in the endeavor turned out to be ignorant of the whole deal and doesn’t even operate in the cannabis industry. The case was closed. The Taliban had once again made the West the butt of a social media joke.
Now a company has come forward to confirm that it is indeed in talks with the Afghanistan regime. The story makes even less sense now than when we thought it was a prank.
The Taliban’s War On Drugs
In late November the Taliban announced that it was entering into a deal to build a $450 million cannabis processing facility in Afghanistan with plans to begin cannabis sales in the country.
“Yesterday, the deputy minister for counter narcotics, Ministry of Interior Affairs, met with a representative of Cpharm Company,” tweeted the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs on Nov. 24. “Cpharm will invest $450 million in setting up a hashish-processing company in Afghanistan.” The regime agency went on to say that it planned to produce “medicines and creams” at the factory.
The tweet was confusing to many, because the regime has repeatedly practiced a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drug use. In August, the Taliban Health Ministry issued an order to the nation’s drug treatment facilities that addiction would not be tolerated and that use of force was the best treatment. As recently as October, Taliban police reportedly forced drug users into rehab clinics during numerous raids on homeless camps. The Associated Press reported that the regime beat and humiliated those it had rounded up in the raids.
This is especially strange considering the regime’s ties to international drug trade. Afghanistan is a major producer of the world’s methamphetamine supply and is the leading source of the world’s heroin. Poppy fields make up a large part of the country’s agricultural industry, and the Taliban has reportedly made millions of dollars collecting taxes from drug traders, despite its claims of strict adherence to Islamic doctrines against drug use.
The move to publicly fund a cannabis production plant runs contrary to the regime’s history but it appears to be happening nevertheless.
The Taliban’s disdain for drugs played only a part in leading us to believe that the announcement was a hoax. Last month a number of outlets searched for Cpharm, the company alleged to be going into business with the regime, and finally found an Australian company by that name. The only problem was that this Cpharm didn’t appear to have any dealings within the cannabis industry or manufacturing in any way.
The company published a press release to clear up the confusion. “We have no connection with cannabis or the Taliban,” wrote the company. “We have no idea where the Taliban media release has come from, and want to assure everyone that it should not be connected to Cpharm Pty Ltd Australia.”
Taliban spokesperson Qari Saeed Khosty responded to the confusion on Twitter, saying that the Cpharm that is working with the Taliban is a German company that will be building the facility. He clarified that the company was not a marijuana producer or manufacturer.
Lending legitimacy to the claim was the presence of news articles from media outlets in Afghanistan and the surrounding region supporting its veracity. But cursory searches for a German Cpharm in the West proved fruitless, and in light of the Taliban’s seeming mastery over the art of internet memes and trolling, many experts and analysts (ourselves included) leapt to the conclusion that the whole thing was an elaborate—albeit mystifying—prank.
That was until a few weeks ago—when Cannabis Now managed to hunt down the German Cpharm International Development Company and confirmed that it was in fact a real company and the deal announcement was totally legit.
Life: Stranger Than Meme
“Apparently, these researchers failed to do a simple Google search,” wrote Cannabis Now’s Bill Weinberg. “A few seconds on the search engine reveals the German firm in question to be Entwicklungsgesellschaft CPharm International—or, CPharm International Development Company. It boasts on its website (in German) of its work in development of ‘cannabinoid-based medicine,’ and its operations in several countries around the world—including Afghanistan.”
Cannabis Now spoke to CPharm CEO Werner Zimmerman, who confirmed that the company has plans to grow cannabis in Afghanistan. Zimmerman told reporters that talks began in 2017 but that the former U.S.-backed government “was very corrupt.”
“The new government loves us very much,” Zimmerman said, “because we are their voice to show the world how the old government betrayed everyone.”
According to Marijuana Moment, Cpharm is looking to build a cannabis extraction facility where local marijuana plants can be used to make products for export. But the company’s plans have reportedly hit a rut. Without the United Nations’ approval of the Taliban, the business model is likely a non-starter. “The lack of UN recognition prevents the project from proceeding because with lack of recognition [the] current Afghan Government cannot export medical goods without the INCB approval and countries may introduce trade embargoes for such sensitive products,” a spokesperson told reporters.
Cpharm International’s home country Germany legalized medical cannabis in 2016. Only three companies have been approved for cultivation licenses since the law was enacted. The new German government that took power in December has said that it wants to legalize the commercial sale of adult-use cannabis as well, although it hasn’t laid out any details regarding a specific policy or legislative timetable.