The Cannabis Industry
Morocco is the largest producer of cannabis in the world, and most of it comes from the Rif. Almost 420 sq km of the region is under cultivation, with 700 tonnes of cannabis resin produced every year. European demand has soared to the point where profits have seen many regular farmers switch from traditional agriculture to cannabis (known in Morocco as kif). Put bluntly, kif production is the region's main economic activity. Alternative income projects, such as rural tourism, have been difficult to promote in the face of such economic dominance.
Cannabis cultivation started around Ketama in the 15th century. In 1912 the right to cultivate cannabis was granted to a few Rif tribes by Spain. In 1956, when Morocco gained independence, cannabis was prohibited, but Mohammed V later condoned cultivation in the Rif after the prohibition led to conflict there.
Most large shipments of Moroccan hashish (a concentrated form of marijuana) are smuggled into Europe by boat, including small speedboats that can make a round trip to Spain in an hour. The primary departure points are Martil, Oued Laou and Bou Ahmed, although the bigger ports of Nador, Tetouan, Tangier and Larache are also used. Traffickers also export hashish concealed in trucks and cars embarked on ferries leaving from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla or from Tangier. Not surprisingly, of all hashish seizures worldwide, half are made in Spain. There is much collaboration between traffickers and gangs smuggling Africans migrants to Europe.
Cannabis remains illegal in Morocco, although in 2016 several opposition parties called for its legalisation.