It’s not legal but it’s a roaring business in Morocco; Cannabis cultivation is a significant contributor to the (illegal) exports and to the tourism trade. Indeed the penalty for being caught with it is ten years in prison. However, tourists are frequently let off with only a fine due to Morocco’s need for the tourism dollars – and besides just as in NZ, the police have better things to do.
We’re in Chefchaouen in the midst of the Rif mountains and famous for ‘Rif Kif’ as it’s known. Its abundance reminds me of our 2001 ride through the Himalayan hill station town of Manali in the Himachal Pradesh where the stuff was abundant, growing ‘like weed’ along the roadsides. There the major source of marijuana tourism was Israel, here it is the young Euros.
The history of cannabis cultivation here is long, very long indeed – since the 10th century its been part of the culture of the Rif tribes. Despite the crackdown on growers since the 1950’s, Morocco is estimated to supply between a third and half of the global supply of hashish and the world’s largest exporter of cannabis resin according to the UN. Apparently Morocco and Afghanistan compete for the pole position in each survey. Now where have I heard this story before that prohibitions of cannabis doesn’t work?
As we made our way to digs along the narrow alleys of Chefchaouen, offers of some of the best of the ‘Rif Kif’ were made. The sellers line the streets the visitors ply between the vehicle parking and the boarding houses, casas, riads, maisons and hostels that lie along the lanes winding up the hill. Why I seemed to appeal to their selling instincts, I can’t possibly comment.
The other thing Chefchaouen is famous for is its blue houses, a phenomenon that apparently dates back to the 15th century when there was a large Jewish community here, refugees from the the Spanish Inquisition. The blue apparently is a reminder of the power of God. Long since the Jewish influence has faded though, still the tradition of maintaining blue buildings continues.
We’ve enjoyed this spot very much, and leave somewhat bemused by the peaceful coexistence of the pious practices of Islam being so intertwined with the hedonistic, marijuana-laden activities of its tourist appeal.