Stoned to Death: Pot is Risky Business for Tourists in Bali
Bali’s southern coast is heaven for hedonists. Tropical beaches, happy hours, delicious food, and parties that go on until sunrise.
But for pot-loving tourists, there’s a dark side to all this. Tourists who try to go above the law by buying pot and smuggling drugs are actually risking their lives. Indonesia is infamous for its harsh laws for drug use, possession, and sale; but it boggles the mind how some tourists can still be so careless.
What could seemingly be a harmless puff of a joint can turn your life around (for the worse) in this part of the world. In 2015, an Australian man named Nicholas Langan pleaded with Indonesian authorities after he was caught sharing part of a joint at the start of his Bali holiday and faced 4 years in prison. Not just any prison, but Kerobokan jail, the most notorious jail in Bali and easily one of the worst in the world. So much so that books have been written about Kerobokan, or Hotel K as it’s been nicknamed.
Schapelle Corby, an Australian drug smuggler, was just released this year after being in jail for over 12 years. Nicknamed the “Ganja Queen”, Corby was arrested at 27 years old back in 2004 when customs authorities at the Bali airport found over 4kg of cannabis inside her boogie board bag. Even though Corby claims that it was planted and the Australian government did everything they could, Indonesia didn’t budge.
Last year, Indonesia executed four people by firing squad. The four dead, three Nigerians and one Indonesian, were convicted of drug crimes. They were executed despite protests from human rights groups, and Indonesia doesn’t really care if you get a fair trial or not.
Mum’s The Word
Over the last three weeks in Bali, I’ve met tourists from around the world although most of them are from Australia. When I get a good vibe from them, I tell them I’m a cannabis writer and they all react enthusiastically because back home they use the stuff too.
According to sources, it’s possible to buy weed in Bali from Aussie surfer dudes. But just walk the touristy parts of Kuta such as Poppies Lane and dealers will come up to you, open bags of drugs and ask if you want weed. Pretty much the same thing I experienced when walking the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The smart response is to just say no and walk away.
A boat ride away from Bali are the equally hedonistic islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno. Far from the busy, tourist-covered beaches of Bali’s southern coast, what makes the Gili islands attractive is the fact that they’re much quieter, and far away from permanent police presence.
In Gili Trawangan, pot is much easier to come by, according to sources. I’ve met several people who have safely enjoyed several joints. It’s so much easier to get weed (and mushrooms) safely on this island compared to Bali, away from prying eyes. In fact, according to a friend I met, the owner of his beach resort was his pot hookup. It’s commonplace to use the stuff on these islands, just as long as you’re not on mainland Bali.
I’m now further inland in Ubud, Bali’s cultural and artistic capital. Ubud is the Southeast Asian epicenter for all things mystic, vegan, and new age. The keywords here are: “plant-based”, “vegan”, “raw”, “gluten-free”, “yoga”, “meditation”, “chanting”, “healing”, and all that – you get the drift. It seems to be that this is a place where ideally cannabis would fit perfectly with the lifestyle and environment, although that’s not the case.
On the other hand, hemp is accepted. Hemp is commonly found as an ingredient in many things, from hemp seeds in your food to hemp in activated oxygen ozone oil (beats me how that truly works). Some of the restaurants in Ubud that use hemp seeds as an ingredient include:
According to the Indonesia Cannabis News & Movements site, the local narcotics act still states that all parts of the cannabis sativa tree is illegal, and that means hemp is too. But thankfully in this little corner of Bali, that goes unnoticed.