A horse and rider slow from a gallop to a walking pace, both breathing hard and glistening with sweat. They’ve been riding for hours in the arid nowhere of the Chu Valley on the border of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. West of the Chinese border, north of India and south of Russia, this is ground zero for cannabis, and both horse and man are covered in its sticky resin.
Man and horse were both thoroughly washed before the day’s ride began, as were perhaps ten to thirty other beasts and men. Then they all set out, naked as they were at birth save the horse’s bridle, to ride at speed through fields of naturally growing, meters high cannabis plants. They will be coated with sticky, psychoactive keef in a while, and then scraped, horse and man alike, to make “plastilin” hash. This happens every August in this area of central Asia, and likely has for centuries, possibly even thousands of years.
Cannabis seems to have been first cultivated by the Yang-shao people in China during the stone age about 6,500 years ago (4,500 B.C.). It’s a strong plant that grows easily and has many uses, so cannabis culture spread throughout the world fairly rapidly. The Aryan people in what is now India used cannabis in more ways than one thousands of years before “B.C.” became “A.D.,” and there’s evidence that people were smoking it as far away as present day Romania in 3,000 B.C. Kyrgyzstan, located at the nexus point of Asia, basically dead in the middle of all these cultures, is a natural location for cannabis to be grown and sold.
The Soviets hated it, of course, but most fun things were outlawed when most of Asia was under the boot and gun barrel of the U.S.S.R. People were supposed to spend their hours working for the glory of the communist revolution, toiling to death in fields and factories upon penalty of being sent to their deaths in Siberia if they didn’t. Getting looped on some “dichka” and forgetting your glorious poverty for a few hours didn’t factor into the Stalinist plan. So the Soviets burned the natural crops or poisoned them. But…
The growing conditions are so ideal that the plants contain unusually high levels of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, and the Chu product is valued for its potency by drug users throughout the former Soviet Union.
One local village – Aspara – is said to have been named in honour of “asparinka”, the strongest local strain of marijuana.
They couldn’t stop it. Dried bud was sent north to Russia, along with the much more expensive plastilin. When the resin is scraped off the riders and their mounts, it is pressed into bricks and dried. The work required makes it expensive, but word is it’s worth it: a few tiny crumbs of plastilin the size of pinheads are mixed into a cigarette and put users into a pleasant low Earth orbit.
Weed will find a way, it seems. In the Chu Valley it still is, even after all this time. Sweet dreams, greenies.
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