Drugs in 1960s Laos

This short, picturesque film comes from a news report made during the Vietnam war, which spilled over into neighbouring Laos. In the old Lao capital of Vientiane, a studiously ‘shocked’ CBC reporter repeatedly remarks on the country’s ‘casual attitude about drugs’ as we are treated to footage of the market where opium and cannabis may be bought openly in the relaxed but ceremonious tradition of SE Asia. Opium-smoking and marijuana formed part of a local culture of medicine and pleasure in Laos, and it drew both American soldiers and travellers like the former NYC psychiatrist that we see interviewed, and who is close to being post-verbal.

By way of historical note: The narcotic cultures of Laos and its neighbours in SE Asia are on the wane now, as the West has done much to suppress production and use. Opium farmers driven from their land in nearby Myanmar/Burma are living in poverty and starvation since they were stopped from cultivating poppy, and opium has been replaced in the trafficking business by the production and distribution of methamphetamine, with devastating consequences for the peoples of the region.