Everyone in the northern California cannabis world knew of Frenchy Cannoli who proselytized tirelessly for hashish and who provided a living link to Europe and to the world where hashish was born. Frenchy died in July 2021 in San Francisco, a long way from his birthplace in Nice, France on the Riviera and across the Mediterranean from North Africa, where hashish has been enjoyed for centuries. I met him long ago in Sebastopol at the now largely defunct Sonoma County Cultivation Group (SCCG), where he extolled the virtues of hashish and invited cannabis growers to use his hookah that had half-a-dozen straws. After he fired it up he took a long draw, disappeared behind a cloud of smoke and went on a coughing jag. It was powerful stuff, even for the master “hashishin,” or hash maker.
Born in December 1956 to French parents who named him Didier Camilleri, he left France at 18 and embarked on a long journey that took him to Morocco, Mexico, Japan, India and the foothills of the Himalayas. Everywhere, he lived with the locals and learned their lore, legends and craft. He was given the name Cannoli because he rolled his hashish like the creamy, cheese-filled Italian pastry that originated in Sicily.
What I remember most about Frenchy’s appearance in Sebastopol, aside from his hookah and the smoke-filled room, was that he told cannabis growers not to baby or coddle their plants, but rather to deprive them of water and to stress them. Stressed plants would produce potent cannabinoids and terpenes, he insisted. That evening, I met a cannabis farmer at the SCCG, followed him home and the next day watched him make hashish using an old cement mixer, ice, water and screens. The agitation of the cement mixer separated the trichomes (the resin glands) from the plant which were then filtered through a series of screens. Two pounds of raw cannabis yielded only two ounces of potent hashish, but those ounces went a long way.
Frenchy never published a book, but he’s featured in the forthcoming documentary “Frenchy Dreams of Hashish.” A two-minute plus trailer can be viewed on YouTube. “Mendocino could become the Bordeaux of the cannabis industry worldwide."
He never lost his French accent, which added to his mystique. Also, he might not have lost his wanderlust, but he settled down in northern California, got married and fathered a daughter. Hashish and Frenchy Cannoli will forever be linked in northern California, or for as long as growers remember their cultural roots.