Morocco supplies Europe with a great deal of its illegal substances such as marihuana and cannabis. Among its main providing countries are Morocco, Afghanistan, the Western Balkans, the Middle East and South Africa.
Nevertheless, according to the UN’s anti-drug agency Morocco is the main exporter of cannabis of them all. What’s more, the Junta Internacional de Fiscalización de Estupefacientes (an international organisation which controls narcotics) reported that the exportation of cannabis resin contributes to 10% of Morocco’s GDP.
Which Moroccan regions are most famous for the production of cannabis?
These are some of the most recognised regions in which Morocco cultivates its goods in…
The Rif Mountains
It has been discovered, thanks to investigations using satellites, that 66% of the Rif Valley is dedicated to the cultivation of cannabis, corresponding to some 96,600 family farms. This is very counterproductive for the Rif Valley’s nature, as cannabis farms require intense fertilizers which can lead to deforestation. With regards to administration, the Rif region is composed of 6 provinces: Alhuceima, Nador, Uchda, Driouch, Berkane and Taza (in addition, it includes the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla), although the most well-known are Melilla, Alhucemas, Nador, Uchda, Berkan, Midar, Imzouren, Tafersit y Axdir.
The Issaguen villa, traditionally known as Ketama, is thought to earn no more than 2000 euros per annum through producing cannabis. The farmers complain about being under the control of drug trafficking mafias who buy their goods to sell on. This is a region in which drug trafficking has become more of a burden than a blessing.
Ketama was once a small ski and summer holiday resort, but the development of cannabis farms in the region has chased away tourists and has converted it into the drug trafficking capital. The reopening of a 4-star hotel in 2008, however, indicates a desire to reverse this trend.
Due to its drugs related problems, the Spanish government specifically advised against travelling to Issaguen or anywhere situated within 50km of the town, especially via main and secondary roads.
Known as ‘kif’ by the locals, cannabis use is a reality here. Located 50 kilometres from the border, ‘kif’ is a fundamental part of the lives of Chefchaouen’s residents. According to their rites and beliefs, cannabis serves as a way to welcome others, granting the user a couple of hours of pleasure by taking them on an uplifting psychological journey. And the result? They spend the day stoned. It is important to note, however, Chefchaouen itself does not have any hemp plantations; it is merely the trade centre for marijuana and its by-products.
For centuries Chauen was considered sacred and it was forbidden for foreigners to enter. For this reason, many of its medieval features have been preserved with very limited alterations. The population and urban changes of the town are very recent. It was the Spanish troops that founded Chauen upon taking control of the entire north of today’s Morocco, to establish a protectorate granted by the Algerciras conference. When the Spanish arrived, the city had a significant Sephardic Jewish population who spoke Judeo-Spanish.
Norte de Marruecos
For the poor families of northern Morocco, who were ignored by the authorities under the rule of Hassan II, the cultivation of cannabis has represented a huge source of income over the decades. We are talking about around 800,000 Moroccans in total who live off this illegal farming, which assures them a gross income of 3,600 euros per family, per year. The poverty forces parents into drug trafficking with a high risk of being incarcerated.
Some of Morocco’s most touristy areas, such as Marrakesh and Rabat, regulate the production and consumption of narcotics much more. Here, selling alcohol is illegal, which seems strange when the use of marihuana is permitted. This said, the percentage of drug use is far lower than in Rif and Ketama. Tourism is not the only reason for this and the proportion of cannabis farms is much smaller in these areas. There is a clear distinction between the image made up for tourism and the reality that transcends visitors’ knowledge.
There is an enormous black market involving the production and trafficking of cannabis which is ingrained in regions spanning from the north all the way to the south of the country. If you travel to Morocco, it is important to take into account the regulations imposed by the region and to note what the Spanish government has stated to Spanish nationals: “The State will not be liable in any way or under any circumstances for any damages or losses to persons or property, may that be due to ignorance or not acting upon given advice”.
Our advice? The best way to use drugs is by respecting the laws.
Translated by Jess Booth