The hemp plant, an annual nettle, can grow as high as 3 metres, while hemp used for hashish production is kept to about human height. The plants are distinctly male and female (see illustration below), and both have flowers. They flower from June to October.
Hashish is made from a resin secreted by flowering tops of female plants. The resin is dried, and collected as clumps. If it is fresh, it is green, but it soon becomes brown. The colour is, however, of little importance to its quality.
Hashish is used for intoxication in several different ways, by smoking together with tobacco, by eating or by being added to beverages.
It is tetrahydrocannabinol that creates the intoxication, an ingredient that makes up 10 to 15% of the hashish.
The intoxication is a form of mild euphoria. loss of full understanding of time and space. With high consumption, hashish can result in a series of psychological reactions like hallucinations, anxiety, depression, mild paranoia and short psychoses. Physically, the reactions are reddening of the eyes, dryness in the mouth and throat, unstable bodily activities and drowsiness. Over time, use of hashish can cause passivity and decreased motivation, but there is no proof of any brain damage from it.
Hashish can also have some positive medical effects, and can be used as a drug against a number of diseases and maladies, everything from cancer to alleviating nausea.
In the Western world hashish was banned in the 20th century. In the producing countries mentioned above, its production and consumption is in reality allowed, even if Western countries have tried to outlaw it all together. In Morocco today, the main production area, in the Rif Mountains, is to a large extent outside government control, lacking the presence of local police, and functioning as a state-within-the-state. It has however been suggested by Western observers that this is only a pretense. The elite of official Morocco are the main profiteers, and they cite the "lack of control" as a way of escaping retaliation from the European Union for not stopping the production.
Another drug close to hashish is marijuana, which is made from other parts than the fresh flowering tops of the plants, like the leaves. Marijuana is hence a milder drug, with only 1/8 of the tetrahydrocannabinol found in hashish.
The hemp plant can also be used for other purposes. From the fibres of the plant, products like paper, rope, twine and cloth can be produced. Its seed can be used as grain, eaten by both man and birds, and from them also cheese, oil and varnish can be produced.
In Morocco, the term "kif" is frequently used for the flower, i.e. the hashish. In the West, "kif" is often used for the special Moroccan hashish. When the milder leaves are used, this is called "habisha", which would resemble marijuana. In Morocco, the production is estimated to cover an area of 600 km², contributing about US $2 billion annually to the national economy, equalling 6% of the GNP (most of this revenue is, however, not included in the official GNP).