Europe’s Drug Consumption Stimulates Cannabis Cultivation In Morocco

RABAT, 15 December -- The first cannabis cultivation survey in Morocco, conducted in cooperation between the government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the country’s  raw cannabis production in 2003, at 47,000 metric tons corresponding to a potential hashish production  of 3,080 metric tons. Both substances are mainly supplied to the European markets.

Cannabis cultivation in Morocco is concentrated in the five provinces of the northern region along the mountainous chain of the Rif.  One province alone– Chefchaouen –amounts to 50 per cent of cultivation and 43 per cent of potential production of raw cannabis, followed by Taounate (19%), Al Hoceima (17%) and the provinces of Larache and Tetouan.

Announcing the results of the Morocco Cannabis Survey 2003 in Rabat, Morocco today, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, emphasized global dimensions of cannabis production in Morocco, the international crime it generates, and the health risks to those who consume it.

“Morocco has acted with courage and exposed the extent of domestic cannabis cultivation.  But the question must be addressed blending demand and supply measures.   It is Europe’s turn to focus especially on preventive measures, reducing cannabis consumption among the youth. Cannabis causes most of health damage of tobacco smoking. Its active components cause paranoia and cognitive impairment,” Mr. Costa said.

Mr. Costa attributed the rise of the cannabis production in Northern Morocco to the three factors: its ancient origin; the poverty of a densely populated region; and the spectacular expansion of cannabis consumption since the 1970s.

The international dimension of the problem was also stressed by Driss Benhima, General Director of the Agency for the Promotion and the Economic and Social Development of Morocco’s Northern Provinces.

“The size of the cultivation area revealed by the report is evidence of the international importance of the phenomenon. It is indeed a global cannabis market. Our country is therefore afflicted by an activity which is detrimental to its development and whose factors of expansion are largely out of its control,” Mr. Benhima said.

The cannabis production in Morocco, as elsewhere in the world, is to a large extent market-driven activity. Farmers raise a total revenue of US$ 214 million; however, the total market value of Moroccan cannabis resin is estimated at US$ 12 billion. Most of this money is made by the trafficking networks operating in Europe.

In 2001, Spain was the country with largest hashish seizures with 57% of total world seizures and 75% of all seizures in Europe. Morocco was the third on that list with 7% of global seizures.

“Europe’s drug habits are at the heart of the illegal activity, which is explained but not justified by the poverty of the Rif population. I salute the Moroccan government’s determination to do something about this,” Mr. Costa said.

The amount of cannabis cultivation in 2003 suggests an increase in the past few years, which is often detrimental to other agricultural activities. This phenomenon of monoculture is dangerous for the ecosystem, especially because the farmers are making an extensive use of fertilizers and overexploit the soil. Moreover, forested areas, which are among the specificities of the Rif area, are destroyed every year to accommodate new cannabis fields, thus accelerating soil erosion.

Morocco Cannabis Survey 2003 – in the words of Mr. Benhima – presents not only a clear picture of cannabis cultivation in the northern provinces of Morocco but a challenge to address the problem through alternative development in continuing cooperation with international community.

Some of the survey highlights include: