Backpacker hubs in Cambodia are dotted with ‘happy’ pizza restaurants, offering the doughy dish with a little extra seasoning on top – and we’re not talking chili flakes.
Tables of travellers giggling into their beer glasses while stuffing their faces with a cheese-laden margherita is a common sight in some parts of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Kampot, thanks to the range of ‘happy’ pizza places on offer.
While the food may not be the best around, let’s be honest, it’s the topping that counts, because these stores are more than happy to cover your food with lashings of marijuana.
This can, incorrectly, lead visitors to believe the drug is legal in Cambodia, when, in fact, it isn’t. So, when the tuk-tuk drivers on the capital’s riverside ask if you want ‘ganja’ as you pass them by, remember you can find yourself in trouble with the law, with some hefty police pay-offs needed to avoid spending the night in jail.
Traditionally, marijuana was used as a herb in some Khmer dishes to complement the flavour. In the provinces, it’s also used by some for medicinal purposes.
When the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia landed in 1992 for its peacekeeping mission, it nominally banned the drug, but enforcement was lacking.
In 1996, the country passed its first law on drugs, which declares marijuana illegal, although Cambodians are allowed to grow a small number of plants for medicinal or cooking purposes. This law is not applicable to non-Cambodians.
Since the introduction of the statute, the government has been cracking down on drugs, but the focus tends to be thrust upon harder drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, which are common in Cambodia.
While ‘happy’ pizza parlours appear to sit in a grey area, visitors tend to be able to enjoy their high in peace, because the police aren’t typically going to come knocking at these establishments.
And how much for a slice of the action? Prices vary from place to place – as well as the quality of the cannabis, which is often grown in the open in the provinces – but usually sit between the $7 (£5.60) and $10 (£8) mark for one large pizza.
With the strength varying, it’s difficult to say how much to eat. However, chance meetings with those who have scoffed a full one and lost the ability to function would suggest sharing with a couple of pals should suffice. Remember, you can always get more.
Here are a few popular venues:
Happy Herb Pizza Phnom Penh 345 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. T: +855 (0)12 921 915
Happy Herb Pizza Siem Reap 069 Mondul 1, Siem Reap. T: +855 (0)88 440 3333
Happy Herb Pizza 23 Tola street, Ochheuteal, Sihanoukville. T: +855 (0)12 21 72 32