The World Cradle of Hashish

Stephen Andrews
08 Mar 2023

It's a well-known fact, the world's largest supplier of hashish is Morocco. The kingdom's resin production has been in high demand for decades, thanks to its powerful and potent hybrid varieties. The north region of Morocco is where most of the country's cannabis and hashish cultivation takes place. After years of turning the other cheek, the government wants to incorporate the unregulated sector as a national industry. Will local farmers and drug lords resist the change?

Morocco is internationally reputed for its abundant hashish and cannabis production. Most of the cultivation and manufacturing activities are based in the country's north, in the isolated region of Rif. The entire industry there is dedicated to "drug" tourism. 

Morocco's hashish production has, at one point, sustained more than 70% of European consumption. The North African country is manufacturing three times more than the next best producer in Europe, the small country of Moldova. Not only for Europe, but Morocco also represents the biggest supplier of hashish for the whole world. Although in recent years, it's faced increased competition from other African countries like Rwanda and also other countries around the globe, such as Thailand and Uruguay. 

Moroccan authorities have largely ignored the drug industry in the Rif region up until recently. It's what has enabled the proliferation of cannabis and resin cultivation in the first place. But the officials' position has started to change as the kingdom wants to capitalize on it. Both government and monarchy power structures are adamant about making cannabis a national business. The hurdles on the way they are facing are the drug lords who control the trade and the local farmers for whom growing marijuana is what puts bread on the table. 

The cultivation and use of cannabis are officially illegal in Morocco. However, in a nod to its legalization plans, the country was the only predominantly Muslim nation to support the removal of cannabis from the UN's list of dangerous substances at the end of 2020. 

A 2021 report by King Mohammed VI's Economic, Social and Environment Council has blamed the unregulated cannabis industry as a source of unrest and tensions in the country's north. The same report recommends the legalization of marijuana but at the same time hints at subduing the farming of cannabis for extracting resin. 

In its effort to keep in step with the times, the government has recently allowed the creation of a cultivation area for cannabis which stretches around 250 miles. That's a territory more than twice the size of Puerto Rico. The purpose of this area is to grow marijuana for pharmaceutical and industrial uses to meet rising global demands for cannabis drugs. But to also move out cannabis cultivation from the Rif region to an area that's more connected with the rest of the country. 

Proponents of legalization believe that the legal regulation of cannabis will pull the Rif region out of isolation. It will protect the environment and save water resources. Eventually, it will open up the area to new industries. 

Would local farmers resist the change?
Morocco's cannabis economy is based mainly on the exploitation of farmers and the dominion of drug lords. There's also intense competition between the drug lords themselves. But local farmers are accustomed to how the business works. The overall feeling is that legalization would push them out of their comfort zone. 

What is the worth of Moroccan cannabis and hashish today? Since the pandemic, and partially also because of the government's interest to regulate the industry, the price of Moroccan dried cannabis flower has risen by more than 50% while hashish has doubled. 

Morocco may be at the verge of huge transition, and whatever happens, its hashish production hopefully doesn't die with it, but it continues to dominate the world stage even amid rising competition. 

Stephen Andrews