The West African nation of Liberia, still struggling to emerge from years of bloody civil war, is now turning its attention to the war on drugs. Voice of America reported Wednesday that Liberian lawmakers have approved tough new anti-drug measures aimed not only at South American and Nigerian drug traffickers, but also at the country's own marijuana farmers.
Under the new law, drug offenders will no longer be eligible for bail while awaiting trial. Police and prosecutors have also been granted new asset forfeiture powers.
The hard line comes as Liberia and other weak West African nations grapple with cocaine trafficking. The poorly policed countries provide an enticing stopover point for South American loads on their way to the European market.
But like neighboring countries, Liberia also has a substantial -- and militant -- marijuana farming population. "The DEA is trying to uproot the marijuana farms," Jelah said. "And as a result, they were attacked by the townspeople. They put a blockade. They attacked them. Some shot single-barrel guns in the air. People came with machetes and sticks and they started beating up the DEA men. These guys had to jump in the bush."
In a country with 80% unemployment, marijuana production is a lucrative economic activity. So is the retail drug trade. One young Liberian told VOA the drug trade wasn't going away no matter what the government did.
"I sell it to foreigners, and I also sell it to Liberians," he said. "This is a money-making business. I do not care how much the government can do, this is our business. This is how we survive. So we cannot just do without drugs."
But the Liberian government is reading from the US drug war playbook.