Turkey president Recep Erdogan has announced that the country will return to widespread cannabis cultivation and he urged regional leaders to promote the crop.

“We destroyed cannabis in this country because of some enemies who were disguised as friends.” – Recep Erdogan

Marijuana was prominent in Turkey during the first half of the 20th century, but it scaled back production as the U.S. ramped up its global war on drugs. In a high-profile speech Erdogan portrayed cannabis prohibition as a ploy by Western powers to undermine Turkish agriculture. “We destroyed cannabis in this country because of some enemies who were disguised as friends,” he told municipal leaders.

Erdogan also reminisced about his mother producing shopping bags made from hemp fibres in an impromptu but impassioned address.

The Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry will now set about reviving the cannabis cultivation industry, encouraging the production of a crop and derivatives through a range of incentives. Osman Bilgin, governor of the Kirklareli region, said the area produces 2.5 million cannabis plants and declared that authorities will no longer burn them.

The Daily Sabah reports that in 1989 there were 42,000 acres of cannabis crops in Turkey, but that declined to just 66 acres by 2009. Cannabis is permitted for some medicinal uses in Turkey, and between 2015 and 2018 exports were valued at just $24,000, while it had to import $5.8 million worth of cannabis.

The head of the Cannabis Institute of the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies had told Turkish leaders that they could earn $100 billion through cannabis cultivation between now and 2030. Erdem Ulas highlighted the various uses of hemp, not just producing CBD and THC products. He said textile materials, paper, biodiesel, electricity with biomass, biodegradable polymers, and all types of plastics could be produced.

He also pointed out that the USA predicts it will make $75 billion through its cannabis industry by 2025 and that Turkey could rival that. He said the U.S., Canada, France, and The Netherlands are already producing plenty of cannabis and urged Turks to get behind Erdogan’s plans and make their country a world leader in this burgeoning global industry.

Erdogan’s conservative Islamist base has apparently responded well to his decision to champion cannabis, and the Turkish media is full of stories reporting that it can help triumph over western imperialism. Hemp cultivation is currently permitted in just 19 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, although that looks set to change in the near future.