In Morocco, small marijuana growers fear they will be the losers of legalization

The van struggles to climb the rutted road that winds through the mountains. At the turn of a bend, at more than 1,500 meters above sea level, you almost go overboard. Younès, at the wheel, bursts out laughing: such a trip doesn’t scare him, he knows the place better than anyone. After a hundred kilometers, the van finally stops in a green setting. Plantations of kif, the local name for cannabis, stretch as far as the eye can see. It is here, in the region of Issaguen, in the heart of the Moroccan Rif, that the greatest production on the planet is probably concentrated.

We expect to see armed men and traffickers with gold chains, like in the movies. Younès, a forty-year-old with the build of a colossus, laughs again. In these high valleys of the Rif, there are neither militias nor narcos reclusive in their villas, but peasants like him, accustomed to harvesting cannabis by hand, according to an artisanal technique transmitted from father to son since the XVIe century.

Morocco wants to position itself in a market growing by 60% at European level, according to the Ministry of the Interior

At that time, kif was consumed in the form of dried cannabis leaves and smoked in wooden pipes. Since the 1970s, with the arrival of the hippies to Morocco and the explosion of demand in Europe, growers transform the leaves into cannabis resin, which is then sold in the form of bars. This big business report: more than 19 billion euros in profits per year, according to a study published in 2020 by the independent network organized by the Global Initiative against Transnational Crime.

These gains largely benefit abroad. Farmers in the town of Issaguen and its neighbor Ketama only retain the crumbs. Most live in precarious conditions and in fear of being arrested. Because if the cultivation of cannabis is tolerated by the authorities, often leads to corruption, it is illegal. At least for now… In March, the kingdom broke a taboo by launching a legalization process: the government validated a bill authorizing this cultivation for therapeutic and industrial purposes. The country wants to position itself on a market growing by 60% at European level according to the Ministry of the Interior, which is carrying the project. While they only perceive “4% of final turnover in the illegal circuit”the growers (between 90,000 and 140,000) could receive 12% in the legal market, promises the ministry.

You have 68.99% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Comments are closed.