Potency and safety analysis of hemp-derived delta-9 products: The hemp vs. cannabis demarcation problem

Tosh Valley charas

Charas is a cannabis concentrate made from the resin of a live cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa either Indica subspecies or Sativa subspecies) and is handmade in the Indian subcontinent and Jamaica.[1][2] The plant grows wild throughout Northern India[3] along the stretch of the Himalayas (its putative origin) and is an important cash crop for the local people.[4][5] The difference between charas and hashish is that hashish is made from a dead cannabis plant and charas is made from a live one.


Indian subcontinent

A man smoking a chillum in Kolkata, India
Gouache by an Amritsar artist depicting the smoking of Charas, a type of Indian hemp imported into Northern India from Eastern Turkestan, circa 1870

Charas has been used across the Indian subcontinent for medicinal and religious purposes for thousands of years,[6] and was sold in government shops (along with opium) during the times of the British India[7] and in independent India until the 1980s when sale and consumption of Cannabis was made illegal in the subcontinent.[8][9]

Charas plays an important and often integral role in the culture and ritual of certain sects of the Hindu religion, especially among the Shaivas — who focus on the Shaivite traditions (in contrast to Vaishnavs who focus on Vaishnavite traditions) —and it is venerated by some as being one of the aspects of Lord Shiva.[10][11]

Despite this long history, charas was made illegal in India under pressure from the United States in 1985 and cultivation and trafficking of charas was prohibited by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985.[8][9] Charas was also produced in Nepal and sold in government monopoly stores in Kathmandu until the use of cannabis, and consequently charas, was made illegal in Nepal due to international pressure in 1976.[12][13]

Charas remains popular in the subcontinent and is often used by Indian sadhus for religious purposes.[14][15] The Naga Sadhus, Aghoris and Tantric Bhairava sects smoke it freely as an integral part of their religious practice.[16][14][15] Many smoke it in clay pipes called chillums, using a cotton cloth to cover the smoking end of the chillum and inserting a tightly packed pebble-sized cone of clay as filter under the chunk of charas. Before lighting the chillum they will chant the many names of Shiva in veneration.[17] It is freely available in several places around India especially where there is a strong affluence of tourists.[18] Although charas can be found in several places around India, its manufacturing can be traced only to specific locations in India such as, Parvati Valley, (Kasol, Rasol, Malana ("Malana cream"), Kashmir as well as several other places in northern India.[19] There is also a large amount of charas that is illegally exported across to Europe.[20]

Cultivation and manufacture

Local villagers make charas in India.

High quality hashish in India comes from cannabis grown in the mountains, or that is smuggled in from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The variety from Himachal Pradesh is considered to be of the highest quality throughout India. It is easily available in Kinnaur, Shimla, Karsog, Kumarsain, Barot, Kullu-Malana, Rampur Bushahr.[19] For this reason, the Indian subcontinent has become very popular with backpackers.[19][21] During hand-harvesting, live cannabis plants' flowering buds (as opposed to dried plants/buds) are rubbed between the palms of the harvesters' hands to make charas.


  1. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2009). Forces of Habit. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674029-90-3.
  2. ^ Torkelson, Anthony R. (1996). The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants, Vol. IV: Plants in Indian medicine, p. 1674, ISBN 9780849326356, OCLC 34038712. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780849326356. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  3. ^ "Charas - A Comprehensive Guide". Rehabs.in. 7 June 2010. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  4. ^ Ishfaq-ul-Hassan (2011-06-26). "Cannabis and poppy are Kashmir's new cash crops". DNA India. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  5. ^ Bhatt, Jagdish (September 29, 2003). "Himachal villagers turning to cannabis as cash crop". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  6. ^ "If Drugs Were Legal, Scarlett Might Be Alive". The Times of India, 14 March 2008.
  7. ^ Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893–94. Simla, India: Government Central Printing House, 1894, 7 vols., Chapter XIV. The Policy of Hemp Drug Administration
  8. ^ a b "The joint campaign: Should we not legalize recreational use of Cannabis?". The Times of India. November 10, 2012. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  9. ^ a b Mitta, Manoj (November 10, 2012). "Recreational use of marijuana: Of highs and laws". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  10. ^ Preiss, Danielle (7 March 2016). "Shiva Is A God Who Likes Marijuana — And So Do Many Of His Followers". NPR.org. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  11. ^ "See Inside the Himalayan Villages That Grow Cannabis". National Geographic News. 2016-02-01. Archived from the original on October 1, 2019. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  12. ^ "Narcotic Drugs (Control) Act, 2033 (1976) – Nepal Law Commission". Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  13. ^ "Nepali lawmakers push marijuana legalization". Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  14. ^ a b "Cannabis in India: A rather long story, with its highs and lows". The Indian Express. 2020-09-12. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  15. ^ a b "Two Hash Smoking Sadhus Told Us Why We Shouldn't Smoke Hash". www.vice.com. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  16. ^ "From Ganja to God - Beatdom - Generation Literary Journal". Beatdom. 2011-05-28. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  17. ^ "What is Charas?". Psysociety. 2020-10-24. Archived from the original on 2021-06-27. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  18. ^ "Tourism and Malana Cream: How charas affects tourism in Kullu Manali". Discover Kullu Manali. 2020-05-10. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  19. ^ a b c Butler, Alex. "Famous weed tourism destination in India aims to preserve culture by limiting visitors". Lonely Planet. Archived from the original on 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  20. ^ "Charas gives Kullu its foreign connection?". The Times of India. March 20, 2016. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  21. ^ "Backpacking India Travel Guide (UPDATED FOR 2021)". The Broke Backpacker. 2017-01-27. Retrieved 2021-06-27.