St. Petersburg - Smoke Report
Smoking Tolerance Level: 3.5
Legislation: Cannabis is completely illegal in Russia, although it is formally not a crime (only administrative violation of the law) to have less than 6 grams with yourself. Anyway, it will cause LOTS of problems if you get caught
Law Enforcement: If you are caught, your only (and best) chance as a foreigner, is to immediately offer a bribe. This ought not to be a small bribe either, because you are possibly facing a couple of years in prison for possession. USD$500 would be a good starting point. The good news is, that this bribe will nearly always be accepted.
Where to Buy Marijuana in Moscow:
Any park (called Ploschad) is worth checking out, and asking either younger people. Another possibility if around the rynoks (markets), but stay clear of train stations, and metro stations.
To ask, you should ask "vui s'nyet gdye mozhna kupit anasha" this translates roughly to" do you know where I can buy marijuana". Anasha is the word for grass, but usually this refers to leaf, which is of an exceptionally BAD quality. Better to substitute the word "anasha" for "shishki" which means means "flowers", of to those who know what you are after, "buds". Hashish is probably more widely available, and this is referred to as "gashish"...just substitute a "g" for the "h" in hashish. It will be black hash, so check to make sure that you are not being sold a bit of black rubber. If you come across deaf & mute people in public places, who are well known to be involved in the street tra de for hash, get eye contact, and give them a signal. The signal that you want to buy hash/buds is to close your hand in a fist, then extend ing your thumb and little finger outwards away from each other, and touch your mouth with your thumb, this means you want smoke. This is a hand gesture understood by all nationalities in the former soviet union.
Travelling throughout Russia, provides plenty of opportunity for buying. I have bought in locations all sorts of locations from tashkent, to Yuszhno sakhalinsk....always by asking friendly locals, or in some cases, by asking the pimps who were trying to sell me prostitutes. Just be careful, and street wise...don't go out to parks at night, etc, and always keep an eye out for the cops. never hand over money first, or show how much money you have...Most dealers will prefer to receive us dollars rather than local roubles.
Marijuana Prices: Generally prices are high (compared to the cost of living), and availability is low.
Quite expensive...Expect to pay USD100 for a 5 gram piece of hash...a little less for equivalent in buds. Unless you love grass clippings, stay away from the anasha, it's not worth it, and will probably give you more of a headache than a buzz.
Brands: All pot sold in Moscow is imported from other nearby countries. Weed quality varies between very good weed, and poor low end pot.
While Moscow is Russia's political heart and symbolic head, St. Petersburg is considered the nation's cultural capital. "Moscow has a much more active nightlife as far as the bar scene goes, while St. Pete is a little more Bohemian in nature," said Mike Scollon, a 30-year-old American writer who lived in St. Petersburg for 2 ˝ years.
Spanning a delta of the Neva River, the many waterways have earned St. Petersburg the moniker, "Venice of the North." But Russians have had trouble settling on an official name. Since it was established in 1703 as St. Petersburg, in honour of St. Peter, the city has undergone three name changes. In 1914 it became Petrograd, and then in 1924 it was renamed Leningrad to honour the father of the Communist Revolution. But when the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, the Russians felt a surge of nostalgia and restored the city's original name. Often called the "Northern Capital of Russia," over 4 million people dwell in this community on the shore of the Baltic Sea. And like in many other Russian cities, "you can get anything you want," Scollon said.
"The drug choices run from Heroin, Ecstasy and coke to traditional happy stuff like grass put through a shredder; stems, seeds and all," he said, noting that mushrooms are also very popular with the locals when they are in season.
Scollon explained that Marijuana is "sold in a 'stakan,' or glass, which is measured by filling
matchboxes and putting them in the glass." He said pot and Hashish smokers in St. Petersburg commonly use a plastic bottle with a hole cut in the bottom. "They put Hash on the cherry of a cigarette, insert the cigarette into the hole, let the smoke build up, grab the bottle, twist off the top, let go of the carb and inhale more Hash than you ever got in one go," he said.
He added that Papierosi, traditional Russian cigarettes, are used to roll joints. "They have a little, white paper filter and tobacco at the end," he said. "Russians blow out the tobacco,
bend the paper filter and insert pot. No need for Zig Zags." Jen, another American who lived in St. Petersburg, agreed that Papierosi are "a ready made shell for a joint."
"Belomorkanal cigarettes are a repulsive blend of the worst tobaccos and there is no filter," she said. "They cost about five cents a pack and their simple cardboard shells are great for refilling with grass. The elderly generation is the only one to buy them for the tobacco and the younger generation only buys them for the shell." Jen said, "soft drugs are pretty easy to find if you know someone."
"It's usually a matter of meeting a young Russian in a local bar. Pot is pretty cheap, and, for the most part, of the shake variety," Jen said. "Russians like to measure it in matchboxes and carry it around in folded up pieces of newspaper. A stakan is basically what we would consider a QP." But Scollon warned that the country's Draconian substance laws could spoil the party. "Russia is not a fun place to use drugs. One joint can find you in prison for a long, long time," he said.
In 1998 the Russian legislative branch, the Duma, passed laws making possession of any drug - no matter how small the amount - subject to stiff prison sentences. Even looking like you are under the effects of a drug is an infraction and police can force blood or urine tests on suspects. Yearly drug arrests run in the low six-figure range. "At the very least you might get your teeth kicked in at the police station," Scollon said, "but that can happen at any time anyway."
A June 2000 amendment has even outlawed media such as newspapers, television and Web sites from disseminating information about "producing, preparing and using" drugs. But Jen noted that corruption could work in a drug user's favour. "Like everything in Russia, police act arbitrarily, rendering pretty much irrelevant if you walk around with a joint in your pocket or not," she said. "In most situations, a $10 bribe or a nice bottle of cognac can get you out of pretty much everything." Kurt Vinion, a photojournalist who has worked in St. Petersburg, said the fun quotient is high there. "If there was ever a city where a good time could be had, it is St. Pete," he said. "You can have anything in Russia, if you're willing to pay for it."
But he warned that travellers seeking drugs have to "live dangerously."
"The police are merciless, the drugs are hard to find - unless you know the right person - and even then it harkens back to the days of covert operations," Vinion said. "If you get caught. you will be looking at some hard prison time."
He suggested that visitors looking to buy "try the local cabbies at the Metro or Hollywood Nights," two bars popular with foreigners. But he warned that without Russian language fluency "you will probably be spending a harrowing ride with those same cabbies as they try to pinch every last dollar or ruble from you as they show you off to their gun-toting friends."
Vinion said that for those who don't want the risk, the bar scene is energetic. "Beer is the choice amongst the new generation, as vodka is quickly becoming passe amongst the in-crowd," he said. "You can expect to pay western prices for beer and drinks, $2.50 to $3 seems to be the norm at the typical clubs like the National Hunt."