Why the concept of terroir matters for drug cannabis production

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2022 / GeoJournal.

This article questions how the concepts of terroir and landrace are relevant for the drug cannabis industry at a time when cannabis legalisation and its associated ‘‘green rush’’ pose a growing threat to both the genetic and cultural diversity that is associated with historical small cannabis farming. The article draws on a multidisciplinary approach based on both extensive secondary sources and primary research.
A large and detailed definition work first informs what terroir and landrace are and most especially what they have in common, from the typicity of their end products, to how they owe their existence to geographic remoteness and isolation, and to how tradition and change (or modernity) affect their development and conservation. Defining and connecting terroirs and landraces in historical, anthropological, environmental, and of course chemical terms, makes it possible to determine how cannabis terroirs compare with and differ from other terroirs and plants, based on the rare dual qualities of the plant (being both a food and a drug) but also, given the illegality of its cultivation, on the specific territorial characteristics of its production areas, notably their geographic remoteness and isolation, their politico-territorial control deficits, etc.
The article concludes that acknowledging and protecting cannabis terroirs and landraces matters because it favours the conservation and the promotion of a biological, cultural, and sensorial diversity that has endured illegality and repression but is now threatened by legalisation.

Opium. Uncovering the politics of the poppy

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2010 /Harvard University Press.

The book sets out to expose the politics of opium. In particular it explores the world’s two major regions for illicit production of opium and heroin – the Golden Triangle of Burma, Laos and Thailand and the Golden Crescent of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. These remote mountainous regions of Southeast and Southwest Asia produce more than 90 per cent of the world’s illicit opium. The book reveals how, when and why illicit opium production emerged and what sustains it. The text exposes the real drivers of the modern day trade in opium and shows why a century of international effort, and forty years of a US-led war on drugs, have failed to eradicate it.

Licensing Afghanistan’s opium: solution or fallacy?

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2008 / Caucasian Review of International Affairs.

For almost two decades Afghanistan has been the world’s largest illicit opium producer. Decades of war, droughts, poverty, and political incapabilities have driven up the country’s opium production despite counter-narcotics programmes ranging from forced eradication to alternative development. In 2005, that is, a few years after the replacement of the Taliban regime by the Karzai administration, the licensing of Afghan opium for the production of legal medicines such as morphine and codeine was proposed as a solution to address illicit Afghan opium production. This proposal benefited from a very positive stance of the world press, in spite of its many inaccuracies and fallacies.