Afghan hash from the cannabis plant is indigenous to the region of which Afghanistan is a part. Throughout human history, almost every part of the plant has been used – its fibres to make clothes, its oil-rich seeds as a food, its leaves, flowers, and resin as medicine, and of course, as a psychoactive drug. Afghan Hash is made from cannabis resin, is a potent drug. Its production in Afghanistan expanded beyond the country’s traditional markets only in the second half of the twentieth century. In this dispatch, AAN’s Jelena Bjelica and Fabrizio Foschini have collected scarce historical and contemporary literature, reports, studies, intelligence reports and other sources that contain details about the cultural history of cannabis cultivation and hashish production in Afghanistan.
The cannabis plant has been known to humans since the beginning of time. It is a tall annual plant with a hairy stalk and hand-shaped leaves. The species is dioecious, meaning both female and male varieties of the plant exist. The male grows taller, from one to three metres, topped with flowers covered in pollen. The shorter, female plant, with its larger, pollen-catching flowers, produces seeds and protects them with a sticky resin. Cannabis grows almost everywhere and can be seen on the waysides not only in Afghanistan, but also in many other countries. It is characterized by a distinctive, pungent smell.
Hashish, called chars in Dari and Pashto, is made from cannabis plant resin and is usually consumed by smoking, although there are some historical records indicating that it was also consumed in drinks mixed with other substances. Afghanistan’s chars, also known as ‘Afghan Black’, is a potent drug produced in Afghanistan. This dispatch traces the story of Afghan Black through historical records and also offers some general information about the history of hashish. The dispatch will first provide a general history of the cannabis plant, then look at hashish through the historical records of the east (where, according to the historians, its use originates), followed by the historical records in the west, where its use spread during both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This dispatch also looks at the expansion of Afghanistan’s hashish production in the 1970s, created by an increase in demand mainly by western travellers, ie hippies, and finally where the country’s production stands today.