Morocco, an beautiful, ancient land that acts as Europe's Gateway to Africa, is also one of the world's top producers of cannabis and hashish. Each year, around 10 million tourists venture to Morocco, to be immersed in cultural and historical richness, to enjoy the beaches, and to exhaust themselves shopping in countless, quaint bazaars tucked down winding, narrow city streets. Of course, a small but significant subset come for just one reason – hashish.
Most cannabis enthusiasts are well aware that Morocco produces plenty of hashish, but the majority of us have never set foot there and have no real idea how it all works. So let’s go over the basics.
Cannabis has been produced in Morocco for centuries, but it was the 20th century that really saw the biggest growth in hashish production. As prohibition swept over much of the planet, the industry went underground, and the risks and rewards became much higher.
In Morocco, the main area of cultivation lies within the rugged, wild expanse of the Rif, a mountainous region of northern Morocco, whose Berber culture dates back far before the Islamic Conquest of the Maghreb in around 700 AD (“Maghreb” refers to North Africa, west of Egypt).
The tribal loyalties of the Rif are ancient and binding, and for an outsider, practically impossible to understand. Over centuries, families have expanded and merged through marriage to form huge groups that can easily dominate a village. For example, we spoke to one farmer whose family comprised over 2,000 members, with over 100 houses spread out over the valley – all producing cannabis to make hashish.
These ancient family networks mean that all the locals know each other (or at least, about each other), and outsiders stick out like a sore thumb. Added to that, the industry is illegal in Morocco, although it is tolerated to some extent. So, unfamiliar people in the Rif may be looked on with deep suspicion, and it’s not wise to venture there on your own – and even less wise to start asking the wrong questions to the wrong people.
First off, where exactly should you go? The Rif is a large area, and not every inch is covered with cannabis fields. We can’t exactly give you precise coordinates, but we can certainly say that the area between Chefchaouen and Ketama is a good place to start.
Chefchaouen is a relatively large and touristic town which has a firm and long-lasting place on the Hippy Trail – every year, thousands of dreadlocked Europeans descend on the place to soak up the vibe, along with copious amounts of THC! It’s a good place to start if you are new to the Rif – spend a few days there and it’s inevitable that you’ll make a local friend or two. Plus, it’s stunningly beautiful, with its indigo-blue medina and charming, winding streets.
It’s always good to be careful with new, local friends, as there have been reports of knife-point muggings and so on – but these are thankfully rare, and as long as you stick to basic common sense you should be fine. For example, don’t withdraw large amounts of cash when alone with your guide, particularly after dark.
In Chefchaouen and other towns of the Rif, it’s possible to find hashish on pretty much every street corner. But be aware – the quality of the “street” hashish you may be offered is usually not very high. If you want better quality, usually all you need to do is ask around a little and you’ll find someone who’ll show you the good stuff. Price at street level really depends, and tourists may be charged as much as 50 dirhams (€4.50 / $5.25) per gram, but if you find a good source, you shouldn’t pay any more than 15-20 dirhams per gram for high-quality hash.
If you’re keen to get off the beaten track and see the farms where the cannabis is produced, you really need to be cautious. You’ll be much better off finding a solid local connection and going with them; also try to ensure that you travel in a group with a few other foreigners. Being alone in Morocco is rarely advisable – in a country where most people have dozens of relatives close by, traveling alone can be seen as a sign of vulnerability. You are unlikely to be at physical risk, but you will probably find that people will try to squeeze you a little harder for money.
In Chefchaouen, it may be worth asking hotel or restaurant staff for a tip – they usually won’t be offended or hostile as long as you ask politely. After all, many people in the Rif depend on hashish income to survive, and many of those hotel or restaurant workers could have family or friends that would greatly benefit from meeting a friendly tourist with a little cash to spend.
Generally, the people of the Rif are friendly and welcoming – but if you do turn up and start taking photos of cannabis fields without permission, you may experience some fallout. Responses may range from angry demands for money, to cordial invitations to drink tea and smoke with the farmers. Whatever the response, it’s essential to be discreet and respectful at all times. If you get a hostile response, apologize and move on immediately.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to leave the country with hashish – it’s rarely worth the risk!
If you’re heading to Morocco and you have questions, let us know in the comments. If you’ve already been, let us know how you got on, and tell us if we missed anything!
*Update 07.26.2017: Fixed price inaccuracy