The Associated Press reports that authorities in Indonesia burned a marijuana plantation “after it was discovered by drones.”

“A joint team of the National Narcotic Agency, known as BNN, and the National Research and Innovation Agency using drones detected 4.5 hectares (11 acres) of land with an estimated 21,100 cannabis plants ready for harvest, said Wayan Sugiri, the deputy for eradication at BNN. The aerial operation was conducted from Aug. 3 to 13 in Teupin Reuseup village in North Aceh district,” according to the Associated Press.

Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, has extremely strict laws prohibiting marijuana. According to Leafwell, the country “carries some of the strictest laws and drug penalties worldwide.”

“In rare cases, the penalty for marijuana in Indonesia can be death,” Leafwell says. “These usually occur with drug smuggling in quantities over 1 kilogram (kg) or more than five plants, but home-growers could easily risk a potential arrest and charge.”

Despite that, there is a long history of cannabis use in Indonesia, particularly in the aforementioned province of Aceh. According to the South China Morning Post, “marijuana is deeply embedded in Acehnese culture and authorities turn a blind eye to its consumption.” The AP says that cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Indonesia.

Authorities have not, however, turned a blind eye to its cultivation in Aceh. 

“This is a form of the government’s firmness against illegal drugs and their circulation,” Sugiri said of Wednesday’s burning, as quoted by the Associated Press.

According to the AP, it was the government’s fifth burning of the year, with authorities burning “43 hectares (106 acres) [and] an estimated 190,000 marijuana plants” in March alone. 

Wednesday’s burning involved “more than 150 officers from the police, customs and [National Narcotic Agency],” which said that the officers were “deployed to uproot the 20 tons of marijuana for burning.”

There has been a concerted effort to legalize medical cannabis, which is also prohibited in Indonesia. Last year, lawmakers there heard testimony from various advocates.

But so far, reform has proven elusive. The AP said that last year “Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejected a judicial review of the country’s narcotics law that would have paved the way for legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.”

The United Nations has identified Indonesia as a major smuggling route, saying that the country’s “border weaknesses exacerbate the country’s vulnerability to trafficking of persons, drugs and natural resources, as well as smuggling of migrants.”

“Indonesia was formally a transit country for drugs, with much of its supply coming from Europe and other parts of Asia. During the last five years, the domestic manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants has increased to meet the growing demand for crystalline methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA). Locally produced amphetamine-type stimulants is also trafficked internationally, at a rate that prompts concerns that Indonesia will soon rival Europe as a provider for the world’s MDMA consumption,” the UN says.

“The Government has steadily increased the capacity of its institutional actors and agencies, including the training of special units to combat transnational organized crime and trafficking, and has successfully prosecuted and convicted individuals for such offences. Despite this progress, serious transnational organized crime and trafficking threats continue to confront Indonesia. Capacity of institutions and officials can be insufficient to deal with the threats of transnational organized crime. Other institutions, such as the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Office have similar capacity and resource constraints.”

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