Morocco: Cannabis and culture

Do you want to know about our adventures and information about one of the biggest hash producers in the world? Come with us to embark on this incredible journey through this country.

Today we are going to dive deeper into some knowledge about one of the largest hashish producers in the world, Morocco. By the way we are seeing it, it makes it seem like it’s legal, right? But that is not exactly how it happens. In Morocco, cannabis production, recreational medicinal consumption are still banned, but government officials turn a blind eye to hashish production. It is evident prohibitionism did not work.

It is estimated that in 1970, 8% of the population of Morocco smoked cannabis. Currently, the cannabis economy represents at least 10% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. At least 800,000 Moroccans live off the production of cannabis and hashish. The price of a kilo of the product is approximately € 500. These are some of the interesting numbers that we came across in our research.

We will explain a little about how and why cannabis and hash production are in a limbo in the country’s legislation, and also tell you about the experience of the Girls in Green, who embarked in some adventures in Morocco on different trips.

Come with us!

Cannabis in Morocco

Cannabis use in Morocco is traditional and secular. Moroccans invented their own way of consuming kif with tobacco, the art of smoking in sebsi, an acrylic pipe. Medicinal and religious use happened in many different regions of Morocco, and were consumed by different populations, tribes and groups, but mainly the Berber peoples of the north of the country.

For centuries, legislation has fluctuated between regulation and prohibition. Thinking about the country’s history, it was around 1890 that Sultan Mulay Hassan confirmed and authorized the cultivation of cannabis in five douars, villages, in the Berber tribal areas of Ketama, Beni Seedat and Benni Khaled. Taxes on the sale of tobacco and kif would be designated for the sultan. In 1956, when Morocco became independent, cultivation was banned, but it still happens today in the same areas.

Moroccan policies currently

If you rent a car and venture out (even in tourist places) through the mountains of northern Morocco, seeing cannabis plants growing beautifully and free in the mountains is very common.

The reality is that there is no formal regulation for cultivation in Morocco, but there is an informal tolerance, or a blind eye. The current king of Morocco (yes, they still have a king!) decided to forgive the crops in the five historic douars. An unofficial curiosity is that part of the profit is paid to the king by cannabis producers. It seems that it made sense for the government to turn a blind eye to farming in the remote areas of the Rif Mountains.

In 2003, a survey by UNODC showed that 134,000 hectares were cultivated on farms in northern Morocco, an equivalent number of approximately 130,000 football fields. Given that figure, the Moroccan government could no longer ignore cultivation so much and started campaigns to cut and burn crops and seize cannabis. In 2011, that number dropped to 47,500 hectares.

Since 2013, the Moroccan Parliament has been studying the possibility of regulating cannabis for industrial and medicinal uses. This is a government effort to change Morocco’s “limbo” situation until the plant is fully regulated, with specific cultivation and sales tax laws.

Even today, Morocco is one of the largest producers of cannabis and hashish in the world and the main exporter to European territory. The main consumers are the former colonizers of the country, France and Spain. It is estimated that 80% of the hash that arrives in France is Moroccan.

Islam and Cannabis

Some interpretations of Islamism consider cannabis use to be haram, a sin. On the contrary to Islam, others say it is a sacred and medicinal herb. The quorum text says:

Like any text, this passage leaves room for interpretation. Clearly, alcohol use is contrary to religion, but when smoking cannabis, thinking changes, creativity too, but not the behavior. This is the argument of followers of Islam who use cannabis.

>“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.”

— (Quran 5: 90)

The Arabs were the first to extract hashish in the traditional way – remembering that not all Arabs follow Islam, since the first is an ethnic group and the second a religion. But among the first Arab followers of Islam who used hash in rituals to connect with the spirit are the Sufis, the mystical current of Islam. In addition to cannabis, other sacred herbs are used by them.

How hashish is made in Morocco

During centuries of cannabis use in Morocco, the famous kif has been losing ground to hashish and the immense outdoor plantations that color and perfume the roads of the Rif region. All these plants are not cultivated to be consumed in the form of a flower. In reality, the Moroccan does not smoke flowers! WOW, right? The slender plants, both male and female, mixed in the mountain, are destined for the production of the famous dry sift.

The ritual is not just historical. It carries a tradition and  it has rhythm while it is being made. Like music. The plants, already dry, are placed in large drums covered with a fine canvas (some even use different mesh micrones) and another thicker canvas on top. The drumming of the production begins and, the dancing leaves are transformed into hashish.

The dry hash decarboxylation process is very different from what we are used to seeing out there! And that was something that we, at Girls in Green, had a chance to see up close, and we even got our hands dirty. Frenchy Cannoli came up with a way of pressing for decarboxylation using a glass bottle and hot water. In Morocco, we had the chance to see a more rudimentary technique.  The producer puts th powdery hash inside a sort of bed made out of duct tape, closes it, and hits that “ball” with a bat (like a baseball bat). Funny, isn’t it? At that point, we wondered where the temperature would fit in, but right when we got the ball after this procedure, it was totally hot due to the pressure. Working with the Moroccan pressure and temperature technique, it is possible to break the heads of the trichomes and obtain different textures and colors.

Moroccan hash also has different qualities. One of the best known and most appreciated in the European market is the one called “huevos”, due to its format. These eggs are famous all over the world, as they are packaged in such a way that people ingest these balls, and you can already imagine where these eggs come from, can’t you? Yes, from that place. It is bizarre to think how the prohibition brought about the most diverse dynamics of international substance trafficking.

It is worth remembering that many countries support their demand for hashish with Moroccan productions through international drug trafficking. Places like the Netherlands, which even have the flexibility to sell cannabis and hashish in coffee shops, supply the demand of citizens and tourists with hashish brought from Morocco. The world is a mess and nobody noticed!

Girls in Green experience in Morocco

One of the things we most like to do is travel to destinations related to the theme we chose to study and, therefore, we will share a little of the experience and impressions we had on different trips through Morocco.

Honestly, it is not easy to be a woman interested in cannabis and travel to Morocco in order to learn more about the herb. We were told, and we were also discovering along the way, the importance of taking certain precautions along this trip. Behaviors, including how we should dress, change a lot in a country so dominated by patriarchal culture.

Patriarchy in Morocco is presented in a different way than in Brazil. Women have fewer opportunities to establish themselves in public careers, most have the life of a “housewife”. The majority of the population follows Islamism, which is why most women cover their legs, shoulders and hair in respect for religion.

In most places, women do not work with cannabis. Planting, harvesting and making traditional hash is dominated by men. Now can you imagine how three Brazilian women are received when they want to visit such a space? It is worth remembering that most of the plantations are found in rural and more remote areas, in the mountains of Morocco.

Among us and our friends, who also share the experience of exploring hashish farms in Morocco, there is a common feeling of alertness and caution. Tourists are always advised that the Rif is not a region for sightseeing, and the reality does not escape much from the alerts. As in other places where irregular activity takes place, involving a lot of money, some precautions must be taken. This ended up difficulting the objective of going up into the mountains to see the hash plantations and productions.

Going with a contact is essential, whether it is someone who makes it as a cannabis tour, or with a farm owner. Maria, when she went, managed to climb with a guide and see slender plants growing in the mountains. Alice had a contact, but due to surprises along the way, that contact was no longer with the farm. With a little luck, we all made it. Alice ended up venturing on a request to enter a farm she drove by. But even so, it was not as deep on the mountain as desired.

Each one, in their trip, managed to try and immerse themselves a little in the universe of what it is to make hash in Morocco. Tradition, culture and passion. So I would define the role of hashish in the family that welcomed each one of us. Cannabis among them is a very serious thing and requires respect. Smoking a joint is a special moment, often accompanied by a good fresh mint tea. Although I can’t always count on luck, I consider it to be one of the most remarkable experiences we’ve ever had while traveling.

The reaction of farmers to women so interested in this universe was something that surprised us. It was as if they didn’t understand that it was a possibility that we had this passion. The feeling is that we were lucky to find a nice person on the road and ask to visit his farm. But women, we do not recommend doing the same and putting your bodies in vulnerable situations.

What did you think of this information and our adventures in Morocco?

There is a LIVE available on our IGTV that we talk a little more about this theme in a super chill way, if you want to watch.

Until the next adventure!


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Revista Cañamo, Barcelona – may, 2014

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