Although nowadays hashish and the country of Morocco have almost become synonymous with each other, due to the North African nation having a lion’s share of the world’s illicit market of the product, they are actually new to each other, relatively speaking.
It is estimated that anywhere from one-third to nearly half of all hashish sold around the world originates in Morocco, but until the 1960’s and the start of the huge influx of foreign ‘hippies’ into the country, much of the cannabis produced domestically went toward satisfying the native men’s appetite for kif (a mixture of tobacco and chopped pieces of marijuana). The enterprising, long-haired foreigners familiarized Moroccans with the procedure required to reduce cannabis plants to a much more potent form.
Use of a sieve to extract the resin powder from female plants, which can then be rubbed together to make hash in a matter of seconds, was practiced for some time in a few of the traditional hashish producing regions of Asia, most notably in The Lebanon’s Bekka valley, but Morocco’s cannabis farmers managed to perfect the art within a short amount of time, and given both the good reputation of their product and the country’s extremely favourable location in terms of maritime trade with Europe, they inevitably came to outdo the profits of traditional hashish exporting nations, such as Nepal, by the 1980’s.
Nearly all Moroccan hashish originates in the scenic Rif Mountains, which stretch from the Mediterranean Sea to the famous port city of Tangier. This region has traditionally been populated by Berber tribes, who for the most part have had a stormy relationship with the Arab-dominated central government and consequently the region has been ranked as the nation’s poorest for many decades. There seems to be a de-facto understanding in place between the powers that be in Rabat and the natives of the region that cannabis cultivation and the production of hashish are to be tolerated by the authorities as a means of economic self-reliance for the Rif Berbers.
Considering that nearly everyone, except government officials, concedes to hashish being Morocco’s most profitable export, there are invariably many shadowy elements at play in and around these mountains. Unfortunately the hashish trade also has a visceral relationship with another booming illicit trade from Morocco to Europe – illegal immigrants. Most Western European governments estimate the majority of Moroccans residing illegally in their countries to be Berbers from the Rif somehow involved in the hashish trade.
The pictures that accompany this report illustrate a routine sequence of events used to produce hashish at one of the many semi-furtive cannabis farms in the Rif. Note the drum method, used by the farmers on the pile of cannabis plants. Though any and all use of kif or hashish is technically illegal throughout Morocco, in towns such as Tangier men can frequently be seen carrying a traditional pipe (as seen in the last two pictures) inside their clothing, and discreet smoking of kif in cafes and shops is rather common.
Author – Arya Kazemi