HASHISH AND CHARAS
Hashish — often simply called hash and technically referred to as cannabis resin — is the concentrated extract of cannabis flower and plant. It is produced from resin and trichomes ( "hair"-like outgrowths from the cannabis buds) taken from of female cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants, and compressed into bricks. The drug has been smoked for more than a thousand years in the Middle East, where, in some regions, it is still popular among Muslims who are not allowed to drink alcohol. It is more popular in Europe than in the United States and is smoked there mixed with tobacco in hand-rolled cigarettes with a cardboard filter. .
Hashish generally has a THC content of 7 to 20 percent. Some high quality hashish has a THC content of 28 percent. In contrast to cannabis leaf (marijuana), which can be found everywhere, cannabis resin (hashish) is produced mainly in a few countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Hashish comes in variety of colors: black, dark green, red or golden color. Most hashish has some plant material and color of the hashish often indicates what this plant material: low-quality green from leaves and trippier gold or red from gold or red flowers and trichomes. In Europe in recent years it has become common for hashish to be adulterated with various kinds of impurities such as Vaseline, beeswax or tree resin.
Worldwide, the majority of hashish is produced by first drying the female plants, crushing the seeded flowers and then using sieves to isolate the resin glands. Charas — which is sometimes referred to as hashish — is made by hand rubbing resin directly from the cannabis plant. It is produced primarily in India, Afghanistan and Nepal. Hash oil is a cannabis product that can be extracted from any part of the plant. It is made by boiling the cannabis plant in alcohol, filtering out the solids and evaporating out the water. Hash oils have a THC content of 20 to 45 percent. Some extremely potent versions are 78 percent THC.
Hashish varies in hardness and in texture from hard and bricklike, to soft and pliable to gooey High quality hashish is nearly 100 percent resin and is usually black and soft and can be easily molded with the fingers. All hashish can be softened by applying heat. Poor quality stuff is hard and brittle and has to be heated for some length of time to make pliable enough to easily break off.
Hashish and Charas Production
Hashish has traditionally been produced in semi-arid regions or mountainous areas in North Africa, Central Asia and South Asia. It is not produced in the tropics as can be the case with marijuana. In hashish producing countries like Morocco, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan, hashish is generally made by dry sieving the plants to collect the resin glands. The resin-rich trichomes with varying amounts of cannabis flower and leaf fragments that are extracted and pressed into sheets, blocks, bricks or balls. The trichomes and other materials are separated out using various sieving methods, ice-water separation, or chemical extraction. The best quality stuff is often made by sifting the material through fine screens, which allow only the trichomes to pass through.
In India, Nepal and Afghanistan, charas is made by rubbing ones hands through the flowering tops of cannabis plants and scraping off the resin that sticks to one’s palms. The work is very tedious and labor intensive. A worker may labor all day and collect only eight or nine grams of charas. There are stories of children being sent into cannabis fields and scraping the resins off them As a rule though the faster the work is done the lower the quality of the charas. Workers who make the best quality stuff, different called cream, often collect only a few grams a day.
For millenniums people in the India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal have drunk and eaten hashish. Finger hashish is made by made by squeezing the buds of cannabis plants and rubbing the juices between the fingers and scraping them off. It is also a tedious labor-intensive process. In Afghanistan, charas-like hashish is made by placing resin in a large heated mortars and then threshing it with a heavy object.
Top hashish-producing countries: 1) Morocco (19 percent of total world output); 2) Afghanistan (10 percent of Global Total); 3) Lebanon (6 percent of total world output);4) Spain (5.5 percent of total world output), with cultivation and production centered mainly in Murcia, Malaga, Alicante, Granada, and Valencia; 5) India (5.1 percent of total world output); 6) Pakistan (5.1 percent of total world output); 7) Netherlands (4 percent of total world output), know for is coffee houses and pizza-like "pot deliveries"; 8) Nepal (4 percent of total world output); 9) Turkey (4 percent of total world output); and 10) Jamaica (3 percent of total world output) [Source: World Atlas]
The Assassins were a secretive Islamic sect of ascetic religious fanatics that carried out political murder and were active in Iran and Syria from the 11th to the 13th century. They came into being at the end of the 11th century and lasted for about a 150 years until their impregnable cliffside castle in Persia was breached by the Mongols. Some regard them as being the first terrorists and sowing the seeds of terrorist thought and tactics in the Islamic world. They called themselves “fidayeen” (“martyrs”), which is what many suicide bombers today call themselves. [Source: Pico Iyer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986]
The Assassins (more properly known as the Hashshashin) belonged to a mystical Sufi Muslim sect and smoked hashish. They were best known for their dramatic executions of Abbasid and Seljuk political figures. So well known were the Assassins that maps during The Crusades marked the Syrian coast as the "Country of the Assassins." The English word “assassin” was derived from "hashishin," which means "taker of hashish."
Marco Polo described the Assassins as men who were drugged with hashish wine and then taken to a lush valley where all of their sexual desires were fulfilled to gain their loyalty. From then on the leader of the sect, the story goes, could order these men to carry out any command, even brutally killing themselves. Leaders of kingdoms in the Middle East hired members of the sect for great sums of money to carry out assassinations.◂
Hashish is valued at about $4 million per ton. It is more compact than marijuana and this is preferable from a smuggler’s point a view. According to the UNODC: In contrast to the decrease in the quantity of cannabis herb (marijuana) seized, the global quantity of cannabis resin (hashish) seized has shown a long-term upward trend, especially since 2015. The largest quantities of cannabis resin were seized by Spain, followed by Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]
Trafficking in cannabis resin continues to be more geographically concentrated than trafficking in cannabis herb More than a third of the global quantity of cannabis resin seized was intercepted in Western and Central Europe (34 per cent) in 2019, followed by the Near and Middle East/South-West Asia (33 per cent) and North Africa (30 per cent). These subregions accounted for close to 97 per cent of all cannabis resin seized worldwide in 2019.
Cannabis resin trafficked worldwide originates mainly in Morocco and Afghanistan Morocco, which accounted for more than a fifth of all mentions of the main “country of origin” in responses to the annual report questionnaire worldwide in the period 2015–2019, continues to be the most frequently mentioned source country of cannabis resin intercepted worldwide. Authorities reported some 21,000 ha under cannabis cultivation in 2019 (mostly grown in the Rif area), down from 25,000 ha in 2018.4 4 Response submitted by Morocco to the annual report questionnaire for 2019.
On the basis of global patterns of seizures and reports by Member States, it appears that Moroccan cannabis resin mainly supplies other markets in North Africa and Western and Central Europe. Some of it is also trafficked to Eastern Europe and South-Eastern Europe. Most of the Moroccan cannabis resin destined for countries in Europe is shipped to Spain and then on to France, the Netherlands and other countries in the region. For years, including over the period 2015–2019, Spain has been identified by other European countries as the principal country of departure and transit of cannabis resin, followed by the Netherlands and France.
Afghanistan appears to be the second most important source country of cannabis resin worldwide, accounting for 18 per cent of all mentions of the main “country of origin” in responses to the annual report questionnaire in the period 2015–2019. The two other most frequently mentioned countries of origin of cannabis resin seized were Pakistan and Lebanon. Those three countries have been reported as source or transit countries of cannabis resin intercepted in other countries in the Near and Middle East/South-West Asia, most notably countries of the Arabian peninsula. Cannabis resin originating in Afghanistan has also been identified by countries in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and, to a lesser extent, Western and Central Europe.
The Islamic Republic of Iran reported that the cannabis resin seized on its territory in the period 2015–2019 originated mainly in Afghanistan and was trafficked either via Pakistan or directly from Afghanistan. In 2018, roughly 65 per cent of the cannabis resin seized in the Islamic Republic of Iran was destined for countries of the Arabian peninsula, 15 per cent for the Caucasus and 20 per cent for domestic consumption; in 2019, however, most cannabis resin seized in the Islamic Republic of Iran was destined for the country’s domestic market, the Caucasus countries, Turkey and, to a lesser extent, the European Union.
Cannabis resin seized in the Near and Middle East in the period 2015–2019 was reported to have originated mainly in Lebanon, as reported by Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, the State of Palestine and the Syrian Arab Republic. Some of the cannabis resin seized in Lebanon was also destined for markets outside the subregion, most notably Italy and, to a lesser extent, Brazil in 2018; also, most of the cannabis resin seized in Cyprus in the period 2015–2019, including some 60 per cent of all cannabis resin seized in 2019, which was mostly destined for the local market in Cyprus, originated in Lebanon.
Charas (Hashish) Cultivation and Production in Nepal
Cannabis growing in front of
Dhaulagiri in Nepal High quality charas (hashish) is produced in Nepal. It used to sold in government monopoly stores in Kathmandu. The Rolpa district in western Nepal was a production center. Ganja and charas were important cash crop, providing a much needed source of income in an extremely isolated, underdeveloped and impoverished region. In Nepal, charas is produced by hand-rubbing fresh plants. Harvesters first thoroughly wash their hands and let them dry in the sun. Then start rubbing the fresh colas of the female plants until a thick layer of resin glands covers their palms. They then scrape off and collect the resin and repeat the process, this time collecting a second-grade resin. After they finish rubbing the plants, the resin is rolled with hands into shiny spheres round (friction and heat really help) as round pieces, commonly called Temple Balls. After leaving them to stand for some days, they’re ready to be enjoyed!
In the higher elevation of Darchula District in northwest Nepal provide, all three major products of the cannabis plant — seeds and resin from the female flowers as well as fiber from the stems — are extracted from the same crop. Describing the cultivation of cannabis and production of charas there, Robert Connell Clarke of the International Hemp Association wrote: “Cannabis crops share terraced fields with other “grain” crops such as wheat, maize and amaranth, field crops like squashes, chilies, tomatoes, root crops like potatoes and radishes and apple, pear and plum trees. Cannabis is the only cultivated fiber plant in Darchula District.Most households usually grow one to several relatively small Cannabis fields of 10-200 square meters. Fields are sown at high density to encourage the plants to grow tall, straight and without branches so the stalks will be suitable for fiber extraction. Manure is added to the fields and they are plowed thoroughly to make the soil as fine and aerated as possible. Seed is broadcast sown when the soil has warmed sufficiently, some time in late May through early July. Additional fertilizer may be added when the seed is sown, but no nutrients are added after the seeds germinate, and the crop is not irrigated, as it receives sufficient water from localized spring rainfall and the summer monsoons. Occasionally crops are also sown at wider spacing, which requires less seed and encourages the plants to branch. [Source: Robert Connell Clarke, International Hemp Association“Traditional Cannabis Cultivation in Darchula District, Nepal — Seed, Resin and Textiles.” Journal of Industrial Hemp, November 2007]
“Mature plants are harvested in October through early December, commencing a few weeks after the last monsoon rains. Plants are harvested in the morning after the dew evaporates, beginning with the larger spontaneously growing plants. Flowering branches are cut from the plants and rubbed to collect the resin (charas) before they are dried in the sun and the seeds threshed out. Once the spontaneous plants are harvested the farmers begin to cut the ripe fields sown for fiber production.
“Throughout the afternoon entire families will sit and collect charas by first tearing the large leaves from the floral clusters and then strip ping the floral clusters from the stalk. The flowers are aggressively rubbed between the hands so that the psychoactive resin (as well as extraneous dust, plant juice, leaf fragments and insect parts) adhere to the palms and fingers. One person can collect from five to ten grams of potent higher quality charas in a day, but more commonly 20-30 grams of lower quality charas containing more extraneous plant juices and tissues is rubbed each day. Rubbing Cannabis flowers by hand is very simple and this extraction technique was likely the first used by ancient agricultural societies to collect resin. Hand-rubbed charas is also produced in the Malana and Manali regions of Kulu District of the Indian Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, northwest of Uttaranchal State, but it is presently uncommon outside the Himalayan foothill region.
Charas is most often smoked in a conical clay pipe called a chillum, but may also be infused into hot milk and drunk as bhang. Charas is only rarely consumed by farmers, who rely on it for important income, and most often choose to sell whatever they produce. A 100 square meter cannabis field can yield up to 200 grams of charas, which sells for approximately US$28, as well as about ten kilograms of seed worth a minimum of US$0.55 per kilogram. So, the total economic benefit from a well grown and efficiently harvested and extracted 100 square meter crop ranges between US$25-40, which is roughly equivalent to US$2,500-4,000 per hectare and based on the projected area of hemp/charas/seed cultivation, the annual production of cultivated charas is conservatively estimated to exceed 500 kilograms and may be much higher. When charas collected from feral plants is included, production in the upper Darchula region may exceed one metric ton.
Good Charas (Indian Hashish)
Toostonedtoplay.com reports: Good Indian hash is always a pleasure to smoke. Often produced in the northern valleys such as Parvatti, charas is made by hand rubbing techniques rather than the sieving method favored in the middle east. You might expect this then to contain a higher amount of contaminants, but in fact because of the colder and less dusty climate in the growing regions, contaminant levels are often low in the better examples. [Source: toostonedtoplay.com]
Indian Hash has a deeper and sweeter taste than Afghan. It can be less aromatic but more pungent in pure cannabis aroma. The smell is pleasant and the taste bold and pine fresh without the spice that ones find in Afghani hash. Watch out for repressed Indian hash which is of lower quality (Gold Seal) and sometimes comes from Pakistan. Good charas should be highly maniable and pungent. Indian hash fingers are usually of lower quality than the charas. Unfortunately, good Indian hash is seldom seen outside of India, and it is often mixed or polluted with plant matter before export to the West. Quantities do become available from time to time, however.
Good Indian hash comes from the Northern provinces, north of Delhi near the Kulu valley. An earthy and tasty hash, Manali is aromatic and pleasant. Manali Cream tends to be of higher strength and well worth buying. An interesting fact is that the Kulu valley produces only between 2-3 tonnes of hand rubbed charas annually. Easily confused with Manali, Malana is made from plants in the Parvatti valley. Malana hash a slightly darker consistency but is just as potent, also available in the Cream variety.
Manali Cream: Charas from the Parvati Valley
Dailysmoker.com reports: Parvati Valley in northern India is a place where the finest hashish of the world comes from. The 'Manali Cream' is known all over the world for its incredible and amazing quality. I had the luck to visit that area in The Himalayas a few years ago and one of my goals while being there was to score some of that famous 'Charas'. Well, that was not difficult, trust me, it's all over the place. The people in that area are very poor and the cultivation and production of hashish gives them the possibility to make a better living for themselves. [Source: dailysmoker.com, Saturday 17 December 2011 +++]
“Although it's illegal over there, just as anywhere else, the police did not seem to care. Besides the fact that smoking hashish is completely incorporated in the Indian culture, that area in northern India is so incredible huge, that it's practically impossible to really do something serious against the cultivation of cannabis. +++
“But every now and then, a new police chief stands up and tries to make name for himself by going into the valley and destroying all the cannabis fields he can find. A video by two French journalists who went along with such an officer into the Parvati Valley perfectly shows how totally useless it is trying to destroy the hashish culture in India. Cannabis grows there even next to the police station (huh, they don't even notice?!) and during the destruction of a field of cannabis plants one of the police officers quickly tries to make some hashish for himself. I almost pissed my pants.” +++
Temple Balls from Nepal
Temple balls are the most famous kind of charas (hashish) from Nepal. Jason Sander wrote in Extraction Magazine: One of the original cannabis concentrates, temple balls are aged to peak potency. As is the case with the similarly legendary concentrate moonrocks, temple balls are a historic cannabis concentrate. Consumers who have experienced true Nepalese temple balls, light up with nostalgia over a premium product from a bygone era. [Source: Jason Sander, Extraction Magazine. November 5, 2020]
“Producing temple balls requires no special equipment, just fresh, live cannabis flower (or, less traditionally, freshly dried flower). However, making temple balls does require knowledge of a specific hand-crafting technique that has been utilized for centuries. Industry pioneer Frenchy Cannoli describes taking “flowers between your palms using a light back-and-forth rubbing motion.”
“As the buds are rubbed, trichomes collect on the temple ball maker’s hands, which eventually stick together as the oils, as well as the warmth of the skin, activate compounds in the temple balls being formed. Balls are rolled until spherical and flawless. Then, they are aged to form a crusty outer layer and soft, creamy interior. Temple balls can reach very high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making them a concentrate that produces profound medicated effects with ease.
“People in Nepal and parts of Northern India traditionally used ceramic plates to roll their temple balls into perfectly smooth and round end products. The Dank Duchess attempted to make temple balls as an offering for Frenchy Cannoli, and almost pulled them off (minus the aging). Cannoli is one of the last remaining connoisseurs and artisanal creators of temple balls, which were popular in the 1960s and 70s.
“As the legend goes, temple balls are named as such because the concentrate products were made by Buddhist monks and utilized in their meditations. However, the precise origins are unknown. Temple balls are not impossible to find here in the U.S., and some savvy consumers can readily find them in Amsterdam’s coffee shops. Temple balls can still be found in Nepal and other areas of South Asia — if you can talk to the right people, of course.”
Fabrizio Foschini, Jelena Bjelica and Obaid Ali wrote: Hashish or chars is a fairly common substance in Afghanistan. Afghan hashish is found on sale in different varieties, which largely refer to where it was produced and also define its quality and price. Balkh and Panjshir provinces are famous for their high-quality chars, known as shirak. Their hashish, compared to that in other parts of the country, is also more expensive. [Source: Fabrizio Foschini, Jelena Bjelica and Obaid Ali, “The Myth of ‘Afghan Black’ (2): The cultural history of hashish consumption in Afghanistan”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, January 10, 2019]
Northern Balkh province has for some decades been home to the most famous type of Afghan hashish: the so-called ‘Afghan Black’ of international renown largely coincides with the hashish produced in this area. Over the course of the last few years, however, Shirak-e Panjshir has become the most sought-after and expensive product on the Afghan market, with seven grams fetching a price of 250 Afghanis (around 3,5 USD). Shirak-e Panjshir has a peculiar green hue and a very strong smell and easily melts in the cigarette or chillum. Among those who smoke it, Balkh now ranks second in the chars’varieties in Afghanistan. Shirak-e Mazar is the most famous type of hashish originating from this province: it is of a dark brown colour and has a pungent smell. Compared to Shirak-e Panjshir, its effects are less strong and therefore it is comparatively cheaper (7g for 200 Afs). Kandahar and Logar (2) provinces provide products of a relatively lower quality that rank in third place. Both provinces produce chars of a black-colour, which is found in the market for the relatively cheap price of 150 Afghanis for seven grams. The ‘best price’ product available to consumers without much money to spend is that coming from Nangrahar province: it sells at 100 Afghanis for seven grams and is also the lowest quality chars on the Afghan market.
Besides commercial production, habitual charsis sometimes produce home-made chars for their own consumption. In Kabul, for instance, there are a number of mini-production factories that only produce small amounts of chars. Basically, hemp is cultivated in the house courtyard, usually in a corner of the garden that remains out of sight of potential guests or neighbours. Once the bush grows enough and its blossoms have dried, it is cut off and dried. This process takes at least six months. Once it is dry, then the dried blossom is removed and it goes through a filtering process in order to collect the particles and pieces of dried blossom. The collected parts are then slowly warmed up over a fire and mixed together for around ten minutes. The preparation turns into an oily substance and is pressed together into a piece of chars.
Hashish in Pakistan
Pakistani hashish has a reputation for being cheap and dark green. Better quality black stuff comes from Afghanistan. In the 1970s, hashish was sold in blocks, about the size of two wallets laid end to end, that were often embossed with a golden seal. A half pound of hashish was sold for about US$US20.00 in the Peshawar area. Some tribesmen laced their cigarettes with hashsih and opium. Today, Muslim Sufis regularly smoke hashish and do so when they do their dances and rituals. At sufi festival such as the one at 1,400-year-old Abdullah Shah Gazi Shrine, hashish smoke permeates the air. [Source: Mike W. Edwards, January 1977]
Cannabis and hashish production is widespread and Pakistan is one of the largest cannabis producers in the world. According to Sensi Seeds: “ Most of Pakistan’s cannabis is grown in the north-west of the country, in the federally administered Tribal Areas. This fertile, hilly terrain is ideal for both cultivating cannabis and opium poppy. Tirah Valley (in the Khyber Agency region) is famous for its large cannabis fields and harvest yields. With its warm climate and rainfall most evenings, the plants thrive, and it’s not uncommon to see them grow as tall as 15 feet high. Jamrud, which is a small town by the Khyber Pass, has around 250 currently-operational cannabis shops. Foreigners are not permitted to enter the tribal areas without armed bodyguards, due to the threat of kidnapping and violence. These regions are also home to some militias (some of whom receive funding from the cannabis industry). [Source: Sensi Seeds, June 16, 2020]
“Many of today’s cannabis strains have roots in the Kush region in Pakistan. This mountainous zone provides optimal conditions for growing potent cannabis; though farmers must harvest it carefully to ensure it maintains its quality. The cannabis grown in this area is distinctive in appearance. It can be purple-grey in color and sometimes grows to an exceptionally tall height.
“There are many methods Pakistani hash producers apply to make their hash products. In most instances, the dried plants are first threshed over a thin woven cloth. This separates the ‘garda’ (dried resin) from the rest of the plant matter. One large-scale commercial method then places the garda in a metal pan with a small amount of water. This is gently heated, and a large stone is used to knead and bond the pollen. Some adulterants, such as ghee or henna, may be added at this stage to increase the weight and the scent.
“Another, more traditional approach places the garda into a goatskin, where it is stored for several months. The subdermal fat of the skin enables the bonding process, turning the garda into a sticky, green-brown mass. Pakistani cannabis farmers claim that leaving the garda in the skin for longer improves the quality of the final product. Notably, in the tribal regions, some cultivators allow the cannabis plants to be covered in snow. This turns the green buds red, and locals believe it produces a more potent hashish.
Pakistan's Black, Sticky Goatskin-Matured Hashish
Not all Pakistani hashish is green, crumbly and lower in quality than Afghan varieties. Abubakar Siddique wrote for Radio Free Europe: “For Noor Muhammad Afridi, dealing in "Awal Namber Garda" is more than just his life's work. By providing the black, sticky hashish that keeps his customers very happy, he's keeping up a long family tradition. Just like his forefathers in the Afridi clan, the 32-year-old from Pakistan's tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border has become a connoisseur of the local delicacy, aged to perfection with a centuries-old technique. "If you put [freshly prepared] hash resin into a goatskin or a sheepskin, it matures into something very good," he says. "It is well-preserved inside the skin, which also adds oil to it." [Source: Abubakar Siddique, Radio Free Europe, June 2, 2012]
“The technique is believed to greatly enhance the hashish's quality and, more importantly for its users, its effect. If the end product makes the cut, it earns the right to join the prize sheepskins hanging from the rafters of Afridi's hash shop in Jamrud, gateway to the Khyber Pass. To obtain Awal Namber Garda, Pashto for "top-grade dust," Afridi must travel from the plains of Jamrud to his clan's ancestral lands in the nearby mountains of Tirah Maidan. There, a moderate climate, red soil, and locals skilled in the craft of cannabis combine to produce what is renowned as the region's best hashish. It is an arduous journey made by way of rides in open pickup trucks and steep hikes, but it can yield huge revenues. Every gram guarantees profit — Afridi can fetch up to US$500 a kilogram for Awal Namber Garda — and, if all goes well, Afridi has plenty to stock his shop.
“The process begins once carefully cultivated marijuana plants have been cut and hung upside down. After they have dried, a thin cloth is used to carefully thresh the plants to collect the glistening, hairlike resin glands protruding from the buds and upper leaves. The residue is crushed into a fine, malleable powder — the main ingredient for making what, for Afridi, is black gold. The next step involves goats and sheep that locals slaughter in celebration of a good cannabis harvest. The longer the hashish is kept inside the skin of a freshly slaughtered animal, the better — three months at least, says Afridi. The process works best during the hot summer months, but direct sunlight must be avoided.
“Shah Mahmud, 55, is the type of farmer who Afridi has watched since childhood tending to cannabis on the tiny terraced fields of the Tirah Maidan. Mahmud says the resin powder is stitched into the skins, which each hold six to 10 kilograms of hashish. Drawing on his experience of decades of hash use, Mahmud claims that when the process is completed, Awal Namber Garda is beyond compare. "Its outstanding quality is that the oil has enhanced its effect," he says. "If it's dry, it loses its effect and smoking it even causes headaches. The [summer] heat is like an enemy of Garda. If you protect it from the heat properly, nothing can harm it."
“While hashish available outside Khyber is often adulterated with henna, chewing gum, or even chemicals, Mahmud maintains that the hashish prepared in the Tirah Maidan is the real deal. "Hashish is not a bad addiction even if you smoke it for 50 or 60 years," he says. "Cigarettes are more dangerous because each one you smoke reduces your age by a minute. Garda doesn't dry out your mind. A charsi (hashish smoker) is always straightforward." Afridi seconds the notion and says that locals use hashish to treat many diseases. He insists that few of his regular customers ever get sick. "Awal Namber Garda is very good," he says. "The second- and third-rate hashish is considered very bad because its effect is similar to your brain being squeezed very hard."
Hashish Agriculture in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon
Lebanon produces and exports some high quality hashish. In the old days and maybe still today it was often red in color and called red Lebanese. Cannabis has been grown in the Bekaa Valley since the Ottoman era, when local pashas encouraged its cultivation. Hashish became such a fixture of the local economy it was used as currency and given away as dowries. Cannabis grows well with little work in the hot, dry climate there. One cannabis grower told National Geographic, "Hashish will grow on land that's too dry for almost anything else.” Many farmers have simply thrown some seeds in the soil, watered them a little and watched the plants grow, without fertilizers or pesticides. At harvest time buyers came to them and paid them in wads of cash.
In the late 2000s, an acre of cannabis would bring a grower about $4,000 and cost him only about $100 in production expenses. By contrast growing a field of onions could cost a farmer $500 and bring in only $100 if the farmer could not find a buyer. There was usually no problem finding a buyer for hashish. One farmer told the Los Angeles Times, “To us, this is just a crop. I would rather plant melons, but customers are always ready to buy hashish.”
The hashish industry in the Bekaa Valley reached its peak during the 1975-90 civil war. There were lots of customers in Europe and North America at that time. The trade flourished under drug lords, defended by local militias, in the state of lawlessness. Fields were protected by gunmen. Some farmers grew opium as well as cannabis. Sales peaked at $1.5 billion in 1988 when cannabis was grown on around 100,000 acres. Drug millionaires built gaudy villas and stashed away their earnings in foreign accounts. Ordinary farmers could afford nice cars and new houses. Local shop owners did good business. At that time farmers were paid as much as $300 a kilo for top grade hashish, compared to 20 cents for a kilo of potatoes. Some farmers collected government subsidies by growing a token amount of sunflowers in the visible parts of their fields and grew cannabis behind it.
Kif and Hashish Production in Morocco
Kief (kif) is a powder made up of resin glands produced by sifting buds and leaves. Hashish can be made by pressing kief into blocks. Hashish and kif are widely used by Moroccans. A lot of hashish is produced there. Much of the hashish is yellow in color and is called blonde. The main growing area is the Rif Mountains, a range of medium-size mountains that run parallel to the Mediterranean Sea in northern Morocco.
Morocco is the “world’s leading hashish producer,” according to a report by the Geopolitical Drug Observatory. It produces about 2000 tons of hashish a year. The Rif region is the largest source of cannabis in Europe. Hashish produced here is smuggled into Spain, France and Britain and other countries. It is reportedly a business worth $3 billion a year, making it Morocco’s largest source of income and foreign exchange. According to some estimates the hashish business accounts for between one third and one half of Morocco’s total earnings.
The Rif mountains filled with marijuana plantations. By one estimate 120,000 hectares of cannabis is grown behind rows of corn plants. Ketama is a town that lies at the center of the cannabis producing areas. Tangier has grown rich from the hashish trade. According to a Morocco newspaper, “many political and economic fortunes have been built on trafficking hashish and its exportation to profitable European markets.”
Even though hashish and marijuana are technically illegal in the Rif mountains and in Morocco, men line the roads in the Rif mountains selling tin foil packets of kif and hashish. Grungy characters approach tourists on the streets of Marrakesh and Tangier, whispering hashish under their breath. Many of street dealers in Barcelona, Paris and other European cities are Moroccans.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
Text Sources: 1) “Buzzed, the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” by Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center (W.W. Norton, New York, 2003); 2) National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 3) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and 4) National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, , Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.
Last updated April 2022