Which country produces the most hashish?

This week's quiz question:

Which country produces the most hashish?

a) Afghanistan    b) Morocco    c) Russia

Answer after the jump …

A, Afghanistan. Afghanistan is well known as the world's top producer of opium, but it's also the world's top producer of hashish, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Other countries do have more land area under cannabis cultivation, but Afghanistan comes out on top because its crop yields more hashish (derived from the resin of the cannabis plant) per hectare. Cannabis generates more net income per hectare than opium poppies, but farmers prefer the poppies because the cannabis plant is more perishable once harvested and grows in the summer, when irrigation water is less available.

"Afghanistan's drug problem is even more complex than just the opium trade," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UNODC, in March. "Yet the remedy remains the same. By improving governance and development in Afghanistan's drug-producing regions, we can knock out the world's biggest supplies of both hash and heroin." 

Now, if only there were a way to wave a magic wand and have better governance in Afghanistan …

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images


Hard times for town called Asbestos

You'd think a town named after a substance that kills 90,000 an estimated people every year might want to rebrand itself, but Asbestos, Quebec is sticking to its guns:

The mining town of Asbestos, Quebec, is finding it hard to leave its past behind; the fibre has been banned in 30 countries but it is still being mined in Canada. Indeed, the town plans to start mining it again.

Advocates of the project claim that the chrysotile mined there is the least dangerous asbestos fibre and can be handled in complete safety. "We are not saying there is no risk, but that it is lower than for other asbestos fibres, such as amphibole," said Serge Boislard, who heads the pro-chrysotile movement. He makes no secret of his direct interest. Now a local councillor at Asbestos, after working with the fibre for 42 years, he is among 450 people due to be hired by the company, and said: "The Jeffrey mine has been our livelihood for 130 years."

The Quebec government is currently debating whether to approve a $60m loan that would allow the mine to reopen. 

Asbestos has had a rough go of it in recent years. The mine has been open only sporadically since 2002. Because of the lack of funding, the city government was forced to demolish its own city hall rather than continue to maintain it. In 2006, a magazine ranked it as one of the 10 towns in Quebec most likely to disappear. A plan to import garbage from Montreal to convert into Methane was stalled in court. In light of all this, the town's mayor proposed changine the town's name to Trois-Lacs, but locals rejected the plan.

You'll see no signs of the recent turmoil on Asbestos' official website, which among other attractions for visitors bosts  "Parc récréo-touristique" on the site of the old asbestos mine.