Near East

Near Eastern cannabis landraces. Historically, the subsp. indica landraces cultivated for cannabis products in the Near East were quite close to the stereotypical Indica. Often early maturing semi-dwarf crops, these Cannabis populations are comprised of individuals with architecture that can range from columnar single-stem to heavily branched. Central fan-leaflet width ranges from narrow to quite broad, though typically to the narrower end of the spectrum by maturity. Aficionados often view Near Eastern / East Mediterranean landrace strains as fast, compact Sativas.

For subsp. indica, the Near East comprises a distinct zone, roughly from western Iran to the East Mediterranean, including Turkey and Egypt. The region is overlooked in popular and academic understanding of Cannabis botany. In its widest sense, this well-defined zone encompasses the landraces of the Balkans and North Africa, including Morocco and Greece.

The characteristic traits of Near Eastern cannabis landraces could perhaps be explained by the historic diffusion of hashish culture out of Central Asia in the early thirteenth century. Following the Mongol conquests, hashish – in its general sense of cannabis, not resin per se – rapidly went from relative obscurity across the Middle East to mass popularity as far westward as Islamic Spain. Additionally, by the nineteenth century, Levantine smuggling networks were supplying seed and techniques to hashish farmers around the Eastern Mediterranean, notably including the Peloponnese.

The Near East and its peripheries are likely to have long been a zone of hybridization between the two formal domesticated varieties of subsp. indica, namely var. indica (Sativas) and var. afghanica (Indicas). Plausible examples of such landraces are our Sudanese and Iranian.

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