American Detained in Cannabis Plantation Case Granted Bail

By Htun Htun 25 July 2019

YANGON—The Myingyan District Court has granted bail to a U.S. citizen detained since April for allegedly growing marijuana in Mandalay’s Nganzun Township.

“We applied for bail because of his poor health. He is suffering from respiratory and lung problems. The U.S. Embassy also made a request to the Home Affairs Ministry and the Supreme Court of the Union,” defense lawyer U Khin Maung Than told The Irrawaddy. Bail was set at 300 million kyats (nearly US$200,000).

John Fredric Todoroki, 63, was arrested with fellow III M Global Nutraceutical Company employees Ko Shane Latt, 37, and Ma Shunlae Myat Noe, 23, on April 24 under the Anti-Narcotics Law for allegedly operating a marijuana plantation at the Myotha Industrial Park in Mandalay Region’s Myingyan District.

The three were arrested after an April Facebook post about the alleged marijuana plantation was widely circulated among Myanmar users of the social media platform.

According to U Khin Maung Than, who is also a legal adviser to the company, III M Global Nutraceutical Company was in fact growing industrial hemp as a trial project with permission from the regional government.

Both hemp and marijuana are strains of the cannabis plant, but only the marijuana plant has sufficient levels of psychoactive chemicals to produce the drug marijuana, the adviser said.

Police are also looking for four more U.S. citizens connected with III M Co.

Defense lawyers said they will apply for bail for Ko Shane Latt and Ma Shunlae Myat Noe at the next trial hearing scheduled for Aug. 5.

While growing hemp is legal in 57 countries, the 1993 Myanmar Narcotics Law prohibits growing cannabis that can be used as a drug.

On July 16, the Myanmar Hemp Association met with members of the Lower House Agriculture Committee and Upper House Farmers Committee to explain the commercial uses and market potential of industrial hemp.

Lawyers say the arrests of Todoroki and his colleagues point to problems with the vagueness of the 1993 Myanmar Narcotics Law, which does not specify the amount of psychoactive chemicals required for a cannabis plant to be treated as a narcotic.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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