Kif in the Rif:
An examination of the illicit drug trade in Morocco
Muslim North Africa
The economic disparity between western Morocco’s upper class, urban elites, and eastern Morocco’s lower class, rural poor, has led to an increasingly problematic illicit drug trade over the last half century.
Morocco’s schizophrenic personality is one that has been shaped by many internal and external influences. The vast majority of Morocco’s financial wealth is located along the country’s western costal plain. This area also contains the country’s most highly developed, modern, urban centers. In contrast, the mountainous regions of northeastern Morocco are home to some of the country’s poorest, and least developed communities.
Morocco, as a whole, is a country at odds with its own identity. In many ways, the present character of Morocco’s identity could be considered the most “modern” of all North African Muslim nations. The Moroccan kingdom’s heavy economic dependence on tourism, mostly from European countries, is due in large part to a deficiency in natural resources, most paramount being that of petroleum and other fossil fuels.
Unlike many of its North African neighbors, Morocco is heavily dependent on foreign oil and in turn, foreign aid as well. Due to Morocco’s dependence on foreign tourist dollars to bolster its economy, the Moroccan kingdom has maintained an openly friendly relationship with the western world. Because of this relaxed policy towards the west, Morocco is largely seen as the most tolerant and “western” of all Muslim North African nations.
Moroccan tolerance towards western non-Muslims, combined with its embracement of western culture, including many of its excesses in respect to the Moroccan upper class, has created a situation of great inequality between the poor and those far more well to do. The results of this growing economic disparity, like in many other developing countries, have been that an indescribable number of citizens, trapped in the ranks of the lowest economic classes, have turned to the production and trade of illicit drugs to provide a living for their families. Unlike in South and Central America, where the illegal production of cocaine dominates the region, the drug of choice for both tourists and native Moroccan’s is a processed form of the cannabis sativa plant, known to the western world as hashish.
Traditionally, cannabis sativa, (marijuana,) known as kif in Morocco, has been cultivated in the valleys and along the slopes of the Rif Mountains, near Morocco’s northern Mediterranean coast for centuries. It is important to note that “kif” is the word native Moroccan's give to cannabis sativa at all stages of its production and in all of the various preparations of the plant for the intention of smoking. For centuries, Kif has been grown mainly for domestic use. Typically, Kif was cultivated both for its strong fibers as well as its narcotic qualities.
In the first half of the twentieth century, northern Morocco, more specifically, the territory that included the Rif Mountains was a colony of its Mediterranean neighbor to the north, Spain. Following the Second World War, European interest in Morocco as a tourist destination became even more prevalent, and at the same time, its influence became even more pervasive. With many European tourists descending upon Morocco, many invariably stumbled upon native inhabitants smoking kif in their traditional way. The traditional way for kif to be smoked in Morocco is a one to one mixture of dried kif buds and smoking tobacco. Many of the native farmers found that the European demand for Rifian kif provided an income exponentially greater than the established fruits and vegetables that were traditionally grown in the region.
By the 1960s, marijuana had become the principle export crop of the Rif region. This exponential growth was fueled even further...
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