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Could Turkey become 1 of the global leaders in the cannabis industry? The country's president seems to think so.

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WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — In the town of Kirklareli, Turkey, millions of marijuana plants have grown naturally for decades. And up until recently, the town burned those plants every month out of fear of sanctions from the United States.

“There are 2.5 million cannabis plants grow on their own in our city. We won’t burn them anymore. We will use them to contribute to our economy,” Kirklareli Gov. Osman Bilgin said.

As marijuana laws ease across the globe, Turkey is now looking to capitalize on its natural resource.

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On Jan. 9, Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blasted the "enemies of Turkey who pretend to be friends," saying that they have compelled Turkey to end its cannabis production. In an emotional speech in which he referred to his ancestral city of Rize, remembering when it used to make underwear from hemp because it is more absorbent than any other material, Erdogan said Turkey has been importing the plant, but is now taking steps for its widespread production.

Marijuana and hash have a long, interesting history in Turkey, dating to the Ottoman Empire.

In the early 1600s, Sultan Murad IV banned coffee, tobacco and alcohol throughout the empire, executing anyone who broke the law. But he allowed the unrestricted use of cannabis and opium.

In 2016, Turkey’s government passed new regulations allowing cannabis production in 19 provinces for medical and scientific purposes.

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