Cannabis in Afghanistan – Laws, Afghan Cannabis, and More Information

It’s illegal to use, sell or buy cannabis in Afghanistan. However, the plant has been growing there for centuries and it is a part of Afghan culture. Botanists believe that it may have even originated in the country. Despite the fact that cannabis is illegal there, it’s widely cultivated. Afghanistan is one of the largest producers of cannabis in the world.

    • Capital
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    • 38,055,000
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Cannabis laws in Afghanistan

Can you possess and use cannabis in Afghanistan?

It’s illegal to use or possess cannabis in Afghanistan. The Counter Narcotics Drug Law (2005) states that anyone caught with an amount of cannabis less than 10 grams is subject to one to three months in prison, and a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 AFN (€58 – €116).

The sentence is harsher for those who are caught with larger amounts. If found with over 10 grams, the individual is subject to the same penalties as those caught trafficking the substance. This is one to three years in prison, plus a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 AFN (€580 – €1160).

If a doctor certifies that the individual is addicted to cannabis, they may be exempt from these penalties. Instead of going to prison, they will be required to undertake a detox programme, or go to a drug treatment centre.

In spite of these relatively tough laws, cannabis (largely in the form of hashish) is widely consumed across Afghanistan. It’s been cultivated there for centuries, and its use is deeply embedded in the country’s culture.

Although technically illegal, many people use it, and even President Ashraf Ghani said he’d consider legalising it, during his 2014 campaign. In an interview with the LA Times, one hash-seller in Afghanistan commented: “Do you know how many people come and smoke hash here? Thousands!”

Can you sell cannabis in Afghanistan?

Afghan law states that it’s an offence to sell, import or export cannabis. The severity of the punishment is dependent on how much the offender is caught with, and is as follows:

  • Under 250 grams. A prison sentence of up to three months, plus a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 AFN (€58 – €116)
  • Between 250 and 500 grams. Three months to six months in prison, plus a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 AFN (€116 – €580)
  • Between 500 grams and one kilogram. Six months to one year in prison, plus a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 AFN (€580 – €1161)
  • Between one and five kilograms. One to three years in prison, plus a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 AFN (€1161 – €5799)
  • Between five and 10 kilograms. Five to 10 years in prison, plus a fine of 500,000 to 1 million AFN (€5799 – €11,598)
  • Over 10 kilograms. 10 to 15 years in prison, plus a fine of 1 million to 1.5 million AFN (€11,598 – €17,375)

However, these tough sentences don’t do much to deter cannabis traffickers. In 2010, the UN announced that Afghanistan was the world’s leading supplier of the drug. Although Morocco technically cultivates larger areas of cannabis, Afghanistan’s yields are more plentiful. Back then, it was estimated that the country was producing around 1,500 to 3,500 tonnes each year.

Although some of the cannabis is intended for the domestic market, much of it is smuggled abroad. Europe is a big market for Afghan hash, with much of it entering the continent via Albania or south-west Asia.

In a bid to tackle the issue, Afghan authorities regularly seize quantities of hashish. For example, at the end of 2017, the Afghan Special Mission Wing, together with the National Interdiction Unit, seized 34 tonnes of raw hashish and 300 kilograms of processed hashish in the Logar province. It’s estimated that this would have generated over €5 million in revenue for the Taliban.

Can you grow cannabis in Afghanistan?

It’s illegal to cultivate cannabis in Afghanistan. The only exception to this is if a company or organisation wishes to grow the plant for medicinal or research purposes, and is granted a licence.

If caught cultivating cannabis illegally, the grower is obligated to destroy the crops. Failure to do so results in legal punishment. These penalties are:

  • Under one jerib (2,000 square metres) of cultivation: Three to nine months in prison, plus a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 AFN (€57 – €231)
  • Over one jerib: An additional 15 days in prison, plus an extra 2,500 AFN (€29) fine for every additional one jerib grown.

Although it’s illegal, cannabis is extensively cultivated across the country. One report suggests that it’s widely grown in half of Afghanistan’s provinces. Before 2008, farmers used to focus more on opium production, but there has been a noticeable shift towards cannabis, as there is less risk involved. It’s also cheaper to grow, and generates a higher net income.

In 2011, approximately 65,000 households were growing cannabis. The previous year, it was just 47,000, which demonstrates how swiftly the shift to cannabis cultivation happened.

Is CBD legal in Afghanistan?

Afghan law doesn’t differentiate between CBD and cannabis. As such, CBD is also illegal in the country, and may not be used, purchased or sold.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to Afghanistan?

The Counter Narcotics Drug Law doesn’t specifically mention cannabis seeds (unlike poppy seeds, which are explicitly referenced). This makes the law rather ambiguous when it comes to using, selling and buying seeds. However, while they may be technically legal to obtain and use in Afghanistan, attempting to mail them into the country isn’t recommended.

Medicinal cannabis in Afghanistan

There’s currently no medicinal cannabis programme in Afghanistan, nor has the government made any indication that one will be introduced in the future.

Industrial hemp in Afghanistan

The law makes no distinction between cannabis (which has THC levels that provide a ‘high’) and hemp (which does not). As a result, it’s illegal to cultivate hemp in Afghanistan, even though it has no psychoactive properties.

Politics and cannabis

In the past, President Ashraf Ghani suggested that legalising cannabis might be a possibility.

However, growing pressure from the international community to control Afghanistan’s booming hashish trade may put a stop to any ideas of legalisation. In 2019, the President of the International Narcotics Control Board urged the UN’s agencies to address the problems associated with the drug trade in Afghanistan.

Good to know

If you are travelling to Afghanistan (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

  • UNODC identified that the main reason farmers cultivate cannabis is poverty. Lack of money drives them to grow the plant, which generates a good income, with relatively cheap overheads.
  • The cannabis indica plant is thought by some researchers to be native to Afghanistan. It’s believed that most of the plants grown in the country are strains that would have originated from there. Since cannabis sativa plants are found throughout Central Asia, there’s also a chance that sativa plants initially came from Afghanistan too.
  • Sometimes, the name ‘Baba Ku’ is chanted in Afghan cannabis smoking circles. Baba Ku is a figure from legend, who apparently introduced cannabis to the country. ‘Baba’ translates as ‘grandparent’.

History of cannabis in Afghanistan

Although recent research points to cannabis originating in Tibet, it’s believed that the cannabis plant as we know it now may have originated in Afghanistan. Certainly, it seems likely that the country was one of the first to actively cultivate it, and to incorporate it into their culture.

The Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov studied Afghan cannabis plants extensively during the first half of the twentieth century. He identified the Afghanica and Kafirirstanica sub-variants, which are both types of indica plant. It’s thought that the indica plants would have grown only in the Hindu Kush area until the 1950s, which means that prior to this, the cannabis plants grown in Afghanistan were likely to have been sativa varieties.

By the mid-twentieth century, indica plants were more extensively cultivated across the country. This led to accidental hybridisation between indica and sativa plants, as they were often planted near one another. Afghan hashish was (and still is) regarded as among the best in the world.

It appears that cannabis was made illegal in Afghanistan in 1957. Despite this fact, it continued to be widely used. Unlike opium (which was typically used by the working classes), hashish was regarded as a socially acceptable pastime, with people from all backgrounds consuming it. In the 1960s, the ‘hippie trail’, along with growing tourism, meant that increasing numbers of visitors from abroad were exposed to the drug. As word of Afghan hashish spread across the world, the smuggling trade started to flourish.

In the 1970s, usage actually increased. It’s thought that this was largely triggered by the country’s growing popularity as a tourist destination.

Afghanistan’s cannabis

Nikolai Vavilov proposed the sub-species C. sativa var. afghanica in 1926. However, despite this categorisation, confusion still continues about its place in the nomenclature. This was heightened by the botanist Robert Connell Clarke, who placed C. afghanica with the C. indica subspecies. This led leading to it being occasionally referred to in the literature as C. indica var. afghanica. 

Furthermore, some breeders occasionally refer to Afghan strains as being ruderalis, although even wild-type Afghan cannabis usually has higher cannabinoid content than ruderalis strains.

It’s easy to see why even experts get confused. C. afghanica shares many of the same features as indica varieties. For example, the leaves are wide, and dark green with an occasional hint of purple. Like indica plants, it produces a soporific, relaxing stone (though it’s also uplifting, like a sativa). The mature plant rarely grows beyond two metres, and there is little space between the internodes.

Traditional hashish production in Afghanistan

Hashish has been produced in Afghanistan for hundreds of years, and some still use traditional methods when processing it. Here’s a run-through of how it’s made.

Firstly, the dried flowers and leaves are harvested by the farmers. They’re then threshed and sieved, to produce garda, a powder that’s rich in trichomes. The first grade of garda is the best quality (highest ratio of resin to leaf matter), followed by the second, then the third, which contains far more impurities.

After this, the garda is sold to the hash-makers. They gather the garda in the palm of their hand, then light a match to encourage it to soften and melt. This is different to Moroccan hash production, which is usually dry-sieved and pressed without the use of heat.

As the powder melts, the hash-maker rolls the garda in his hand, until it forms a dark, sticky ball of hash. It’s a time-consuming, painstaking process, which is why the price is quite high.

Melons and cannabis

Melons are commonly grown in Afghanistan, particularly in the north. As well as being consumed on their own, they’re also regularly eaten with hashish. Users claim that it not only extends the high, but also counteracts any negative effects that the cannabis might have.

Attitudes to cannabis

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal substance in Afghanistan. A UNODC survey from 2009 found that around 60% of all the country’s drug users had used cannabis in the past, and the annual prevalence of use was 8.1% in men. It was only 0.2% among women, which clearly demonstrates the continued belief that cannabis is a ‘male’ drug.

Attitudes towards the drug are fairly liberal, although the government make regular eradication attempts, in a bid to control the flourishing illegal hashish trade.

Will cannabis be legalised in the future?

With mounting pressure from the international community to curb the flow of hashish from Afghanistan, it seems unlikely that it will be legalised any time soon. However, it’s probable that the Afghan people will continue to use it as they have done for centuries, regardless of the current laws.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

3 thoughts on “Cannabis in Afghanistan – Laws, Afghan Cannabis, and More Information”

  1. DAVID WATSON

    “Garda” is not from Afghanistan, it is from Kashmir.
    They are both dry sifted, but in Afghanistan the name Garda is not used.
    In Kashmir they do not hand press they place it in corn husks and steam it and then twist the Garda as tight as they can. It is often called twist.
    Kashmir was the only country where they made both hand rubbed and dry sift Garda, now several do, as well as water hash and Rosin, and various oils and extracts.
    I was not allowed to post this as I posted several to quickly, shame the original poster did not get their facts straight, I did.

  2. David,

    Garda is used in Kashmir indeed, but also in Pakistan & Afghanistan where it designates the unpressed/uncooked resin (garda means dust/powder actually). The cooking & pressing process turns Garda in Chars/Charas.
    It’s still possible to find twisted garda in Kumaon Himalaya, and some was produced in Nepal & Himachal during the “Golden Age”. 🙂

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