Morocco Hits Cannabis, Tells Europe ‘There Are No Soft Drugs’


North Morocco was, until now, a cannabis farmer’s paradise. In the northern part of the country, there are many marijuana fields, from which cannabis resin (hashish) is harvested.

​No more Marrakesh Express? Morocco claims it has cut cannabis traffickers’ revenue to less than a third of its 2005 level, but its efforts could be undermined if Europe continues relaxing its laws against the herb, a top Moroccan policeman said Thursday.

The North African country once held the exalted position of being the biggest cannabis exporter in the world, according to the United Nations, but it has now cracked down on the hashish trade because of strained ties with the European Union, which is where most of its cannabis ends up, reports Lamine Ghanmi at Reuters.
“Our efforts against hashish trafficking activity have led to a reduction in the revenue of that illegal business to 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in 2009, from 13 billion euros in 2005,” said Khalid Zerouali, the Interior Ministry’s head of migration and border surveillance, on Thursday.

Morrocan Slate hash, known for its mildness, is the most common hashish on the European market.

​In 2003 134,000 hectares of land were used for growing cannabis and the annual production of hashish (cannabis resin) was about 3,000 tonnes, according to Zerouali.
By 2009, the marijuana growing area had shrunk to about 56,000 hectares and hashish output had fallen to less than 500 tonnes, he claimed.
“This effort is made in complete transparency and cooperation with the United Nations as the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime shares with us the results of surveillance of our work made by satellites,” Zerouali said.
The Moroccan government claims it believes the cannabis trade is “hampering development” of its northern regions, where marijuana is grown.
But the real reason for the crackdown appears to be the belief by officials that the hashish industry is used to help fund the activities of militant Islamists who seek to overthrow the government.
Although some European countries have reclassified cannabis as a less harmful drug and reduced the penalties for possessing or selling it, Zerouali warned against that approach.
“Morocco is accomplishing its mission,” he said. “It cut cannabis production and it will continue to do that. But everybody has to play their role.”
“There are no soft drugs and hard drugs,” Zerouali pronounced.
“Europe is where almost all the cannabis resin is consumed,” he said. “We cannot continue there with the logic of decriminalizing this so-called ‘soft drug.’ A drug is a drug.”
Morocco was granted “advanced status” by the EU in 2008, giving it better trading terms and increased “development” aid, to reward its perceived “success in stopping the cannabis trade,” as well as its progress in reducing illegal migration to Europe.
The country’s strategy for dealing with the “cannabis problem” is focused on cracking down on hashish traffickers while at the same time encouraging marijuana farmers to switch to legal crops like fruit, olives, and medicinal herbs.