As several here know I live in one of the countries with currently among the harshest War on Drugs on this planet: the Philippines.
Also part of what may historically go down as the “Crazy Electoral 2016 Year”, the country which was in a slow but gradual political evolution and finding always more “political maturity” quickly reverted evolution as the bad boy from the South, Rodrigo Duterte, announced his candidacy and would go on to win the presidential elections by a landslide.
Campaigning with rude, rather impossible rape jokes and, of course, his war on drugs.
Without going too much in to detail about that, media outlets large and small have done all that numerous times already, let’s have a look at what it means from a more practical angle for the casual toker.
For us smokers.
Toking is About to Change
Until before the new administration took over, it wasn’t uncommon to smell weed around the streets of the major cities — with the exception of Davao City, ruled by the Duterte family. I remember arriving here and via friends getting weed at what would probably be one of the most obvious places to expect to find it. A real treasure for cops, but generally the attitude was lax.
People would smoke rather openly in the streets, at least public streets. Not everyone may realize that but in lesser developed parts of the world many “public areas” are actually private land owned by a mega corporation who developed complete cities on those. Same applies to many subdivisions, which are often “gated communities” with own security. The situation in those communities, technically private land, is often depending on the policies of the security company and, of course, also the attitude of the property management company. Or otherwise known as YMMV.
Where I initially lived, a typical Asian “resort style residence”, smoking on the balcony wasn’t an issue and never did anyone make any reflection about it.
It was also easy to find paraphernalia. Papers were available at “popup kiosks” in malls, most also had one hit pipes and we had few headshops, who stocked the usual bongs and other equipment. With a little bit of luck you could even find a honey collector but most often the offerings would revolve around more traditional bongs.
Marijuana was still illegal after all.
In the province, particularly on smaller isles, it was common to smell weed and easy to find dealers. Often much higher quality than what was available to most in Manila where nugs were premium.
Then everything changed, almost over night, when the new Duterte administration took over. In the run up to the change of administration the attitude of the police had changed already as they were obviously gearing up to serve the new ruler. Several cities had published what degree of severity could be expected and how lenient — not — the local squads would behave. Luckily I live in a city with a more laisser-faire attitude but one shouldn’t take that for granted nor totally rely on it because federal agencies can still act locally. Some other cities in the Metropole, like Quezon City and Manila itself, became a war field over night and as soon as the new administration was in position the body count shot up.
But something else was taking place as well. Aside from several dealers turning themselves in, often hoping for leniency or out of fear given the new ruthless approach, and others disappearing - alive or not - stores started to change.
Skins suddenly disappeared from the shelves, even the rather rarely found imported rolling tobacco was soon unavailable. Because, obviously, lowly funded police squads had discovered the detective ingenuity that somebody who buys king size papers could be a drug user. Same with one hitters.
And Duterte didn’t make any distinction between users and dealers. In fact, most of his campaigning revolved around the hardship users (mostly the local meth variant shabu) caused on their family. In his rhetoric it was a recurring theme that it was OK to kill users in order to make the lives of their family members better.
As long as there was any form of drugs connection it was ok. Just add it to the headcount, alternatively if marijuana related... 12 to 18 years inside, at least if they didn't cause any opposition which would result in the morgue.
For months now I have struggled obtaining king size skins. Because of the problems explained above. Naturally, I could have purchased them online and get them delivered to... the customs office at the post office.
Which, depending on whom worked, would only reiterate the problem and put anyone at risk because parcels need to be opened at the customs office by the receiver.
Generally most (smaller) parcels shipped to the Philippines pass via the post office and have to be collected at the customs office. Only few, more professional merchants with higher volume will work with alternative shipping organizations who take care of customs and still deliver to the door. The most known shipping company used is Johnny Air.
As such I could have ordered them via Galleon.ph, and have them shipped from the USA via their “delivered to your door in the Philippines” service, which passes through its own customs lane at the airport. Alternatively they also ship via so-called balikbayan boxes. A beautiful weekend hack startup which has provided a great service to the Philippines until Amazon not that long ago decided to also start shipping many of its items to the Philippines.
Yet, given the premium they charge I never made use of their service for things as small as skins.
Recently as I was casually browsing one of two large online marketplaces, shopee.ph, I came across this listing (see leadpic). It was one of many super sale days and I still had time limited vouchers to use.
Shopee, just like their Alibaba owned competitor Lazada, deliver to your door also products imported from overseas, without any customs involvement as the platform itself withholds import and custom fees when required. Which suddenly sounded absolutely interesting.
Skins, for affordable price, and free shipping when buying as little as $2 was a perfect deal to try out the products on offer and maybe, hopefully, solve an ongoing issue in this Duterte era. Because going to the head shop in a city an hour away is slightly too risky to me due to its public profile. Even though they have absolutely awesome bongs.
And just like that this morning my shipment arrived. Two packs of king-size papers: a pack of RAW papers and a pack of Hornet skins.
While the temptation to order a full box was big, this is Asia and large marketplaces, as well as typical local malls, suffer from large scale OEM items. Read: fakes.
Thus it is always wise to test first before going big.
Sadly enough this means an excessive amount of plastic used for what is a mini-parcel but sometimes there are no viable alternative options.
One thing I immediately spotted as I received my parcel was the products listed on the parcel label. There was no mention of RAW papers, which I thought was initially included in the product title. Or maybe I was just too giddy and eager and saw only the product images and the cheap price (around $1.2 for a pack of 32).
Obviously, I immediately knew what was happening and felt justified about my decision to opt for more plastic rather than spend more immediately and buy in bulk.
As soon as I opened the parcel, I felt vindicated.
Yet, this is Asia and we don’t only do crap fakes here. We do Class A OEM too, which only a brand specialist could recognize more often than not.
And despite one blatant oversight, these skins surely do look and feel the part. Both even have watermarks in the papers, real looking watermarks (more details in a future “Can I still roll an inside out joint after two years” post)
But the giveaway doesn’t require the “Made in China” sticker, no it was much easier to spot the #rawlife fake here.
None of both packs have any tips, unlike advertised in their product listing.
The more observant reader had also immediately spotted the lacking rubber on the RAW pack.
It looks like Amazon, via Galleon.ph, is the route to go for skins for me. I do enjoy life, and freedom, too much to increase the risk of discovery and potentially 12 to 18 years because I went to the customs office. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯