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Moroccan hashish as an example of a cannabis terroir product


This article aims at clarifying the concepts of terroir and landrace in the context of cannabis cultivation and hashish production. Taking the Rif region of Morocco as a case study, it shows in particular how and why both terroir and landrace come from the territory they belong to as much as they characterize it. This article raises the question of the existence, future, and development of a cannabis terroir, based on precise and operational definitions of the concepts of terroir and landrace, considered locally in historical, geographical, and cultural terms. Raising the question of a cannabis terroir in Morocco implies considering the Moroccan history of cannabis and its end products, and, as a consequence, the related issues of tradition, autochthony (and allochthony), authenticity, and finally legitimacy (and even legality): all concepts required to address the controversial and even polemical issue of cannabis production in the Rif region. This article concludes that the existence and conservation of a hashish terroir can benefit the Rif region in multiple ways: by improving the image and reputation of Moroccan hashish, by increasing its market value, and by benefiting the local, regional, and national economy. Yet, identifying a cannabis terroir also implies to acknowledge its historical, geographical, cultural, and environmental components in order to protect them. Therefore, identifying and promoting a terroir can prove beneficial economically, environmentally, and culturally as it implies conservation policies and actions that can benefit the balance and stability of a given region, in this case the Rif region of Morocco.

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  1. The Rif is the northern region of Morocco that stretches for about 350 km between the Atlantic Ocean in the west and Algeria in the east, and for 80 to 120 km between the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the plains leading to the Middle Atlas in the south.

  2. In the modern sense, hashish is a psychoactive product made (by compression) from the resin obtained by sieving (in Morocco, Lebanon and Afghanistan) the (mainly) capitate glandular trichomes that cover the inflorescences of female cannabis plants. This resin contains, among other cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient isolated in 1964 that is responsible for the psychoactive effects most appreciated and sought after by cannabis users.

  3. In this text, cultigen and strain refer to the same thing. For the sake of clarity, let us remember that variety refers to a taxonomic rank while cultivar is a registered (by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants: ICNCP) cultivated variety defined by a stable phenotype. As for strain (widely mentioned in the cannabis industry), it is a term used in microbiology that is without any official meaning in botany although it is often used to refer to the group of offspring from a modified plant. In the end, the best way to globally refer to the different cannabis varieties and cultivars, including the so-called strains, is by speaking of cultigens, that is, ‘‘deliberately selected plants that may have arisen by intentional or accidental hybridisation in cultivation, by selection from existing cultivated stocks, or from variants within wild populations that are maintained as recognisable entities solely by continued propagation’’ (Brickell et al., 2009: 1).

  4. Logical and orderly sequence of cultivation and production techniques applied to a cultivated species and dependent on sociocultural management and uses.

  5. One of the few to consider the terroirs of cannabis without omitting landraces was C. ‘Frenchy’ Cannoli (1956–2021), the famed hashish master. See

  6. “Bour” is a (classical) Arabic term meaning “wild” and, when referring to land, “moorland” or “uncultivated / cultivable land”. The use of the term in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) to refer to rainfed agriculture may be explained by the cultivation of cleared and therefore unirrigated land. The term is widely used in the literature on agriculture in Morocco, but it is not used in the Rif, where the term lbe'li or lbaali (bieli means rainfed in classical Arabic) is preferred (the Arabic article is always incorporated into Berber nouns, hence lbe’li). Irrigated land is called sseqwi in the Rif (the Arabic/Darija ‘g’ is a ‘q’ in Senhadja: same root as seguia): Gutova, 2021; plus personal communications.

  7. The Arabic term makhzen (fortified warehouse in Arabic (mah̬āzin, plur. of mah̬zan), gave “shop” (magasin) in French: referred to the sultan’s administration and now unofficially refers to the Moroccan administration (Claisse, 1992). As for siba (sibt in Berber: Agrour, 2012: §107), a verbal noun from the Arabic siyyeb (to leave, to throw away, to abandon), it translates into “a state of anarchy, disorder, dissidence, insubordination, rebellion against the authorities, the central power” (Prémare, 1996; plus personal communications from linguists Lameen Souag and Evgeniya Gutova). The bled es-siba is thus “the territory whose populations are in a state of anarchy”, where the authority of the sultan and henceforth of the state is contested. The equivalent exists in Algeria, where there is mention of bled el-khela, or land of abandonment (Rinn, 1900: 27; Hermassi, 1973: 211), and bled el-baroud, or land of gunpowder (from bārūd, a Chleuh / Tachelhit word for gunpowder and, by extension, combat: and Rey, 2010), as opposed to the very explicit bled al-Turk.

  8. Mention of khaf in 1791 in the account of a journey to Morocco by the English surgeon William Lamprière, commissioned by Mohammed V (1927–1957) (French translation of 1801), of keff in 1805 by Antoine Silvestre de Sacy, and finally, after many other occurrences, of kif as early as 1853 in Algeria in a document of the French Ministry of War (Laffitte, 2005: 9).

  9. According to the classification used by Clarke and Merlin (2013: 128, 330), who favour a polytypic classification of Cannabis, the kif now used in Morocco for hashish production is a cultigen known as NLD (narrow-leaf drug Cannabis, usually referred to as “sativa”) that they call Cannabis indica ssp. indica var. mediterraneana, which may be the result of hybridisation (introgression) between Asian NLD varieties (between Lebanon and Iran) and narrow-leaf hemp (NLH) varieties from southern Europe, which would explain its low branching, narrow leaves, modest THC levels (2–5%) and relatively high CBD levels (up to 2% according to some analyses) (

  10. Personal communication from Evgeniya Gutova.

  11. Literally, “grass” or “hay” in Arabic (ḥašīš), then, euphemistically, “Indian hemp”, and finally, metonymically, compressed cannabis resin (although it is not clear when, if only because there has always been considerable confusion as to what exactly the term referred to: the plant, its end products, sometimes, inaccurately, even the “hashish” made from cannabis leaves instead of the sieving of trichomes). See: Rosenthal, 1971; Nahas, 1982.

  12. Village or hamlet, from Arabic duwwār, “encampment of tents established in a circle”. See Boyer, 1995.

  13. Aït is a Berber prefix (equivalent to Arabic beni) referring to parentage. Berber-speaking tribes and villages tend to be called aït and not beni (Arabic-speaking).


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Chouvy, PA. Moroccan hashish as an example of a cannabis terroir product. GeoJournal 88, 3833–3850 (2023).

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