Wide Angle

BBC documentary exposes hashish farmers’ vulnerability and officials' alleged involvement

In a 54-minute long documentary, BBC Arabic tried to answer questions related to hashish production and smuggling in Morocco. The channel revealed the vulnerability of Moroccan hashish growers and its flourishing market in the West.

A modern cannabis farm in Morocco's Rif mountains. / Ph. Seshata
Estimated read time: 3'

A BBC Arabic documentary, released Wednesday, tried to answer a daring question on hash cultivation in Morocco. Entitled «Who is Getting Rich from Moroccan Hash ?», the project investigated «the production, consumption and trade of hash» in the Kingdom, the number one exporter of this drug in the world.

Starting from Chefchaouen, a city in the Rif mountains, where growing hashish is a common practice, BBC Arabic reporter Emir Nader led a journey to answer questions on hashish production.

The documentary revealed that farmers who grow cannabis illegally in the northern Rif region, are the weakest link in a chain that, involves international smugglers, corrupt officials and sellers in Amsterdam. Speaking to hashish growers in northern Morocco, BBC Arabic shows that authorities turn a blind eye to hashish cultivation in the Rif.

Hash farmers' vulnerability

«We don’t have a choice», a hash farmer told BBC Arabic, referring to the critical situation of many other farmers in the region. According to the same source, hash growers live in the shadow as most «of them are wanted by the police».

«Most of them do not have IDs and can’t get out of the region in order not to get arrested (…) their children can’t go to school because they don’t have birth certificates», the documentary revealed.

«They are between the devil and the blue sea», stressed the same source, referring to the impoverishing situation of these farmers. At the National Security headquarters, BBC Arabic was told that «most of the time these people (farmers) are forced to grow hashish, but the practice remains illegal».

While hash farmers are regarded as outlaws in Morocco, selling cannabis in Amsterdam (Netherlands) in shops is legal. Coffeeshops in the city make around «€ billion yearly», said BBC Arabic journalist Emir Nader, who visited one of the most famous cannabis shops in the Dutch city.

A gram of Ketama hashish, which comes from Morocco, is sold for 8.50 euros. According to the spokesperson of the company that runs the shop, «selling hashish in Amsterdam is permitted but transporting it, storing it and growing it is not allowed». The company can only stock up to 500 grams of Hashish as shops cannot legally purchase hashish on a big scale.

However, the company revealed that it has relations with hashish growers in Morocco. «We have a seed line that is grown in Morocco», the spokesperson told BBC Arabic. Moreover, the British TV channel found out that Western hashish sellers contribute to the growing of the drug in the Kingdom.

Local journalist Mohamed Aabout, who was able to speak to local farmers, told BBC Arabic that Spanish French and Dutch investors «send genetically modified grains to farmers» to better their products.

The alleged involvement of Moroccan officials ?

The same documentary alleges that hashish smuggling «involves officials» in the Kingdom. Speaking to former police informant Mohamed Khallouli, who currently lives in Melilla as a political refugee, alleged that «authorities facilitate drugs smuggling in Morocco».

In Amsterdam, BBC Arabic was able to obtain confidential court documents, that showed that Moroccan public official Khalid El Bachrioui was sentenced to four years in prison for money laundering but without spending one day in prison.

In Antwerp, Belgium, former drugs smuggler Paul M. admitted that he was able to smuggle drugs from Morocco. «Everything is coming from Morocco (…) from the mountains», he said, adding that hashish goes from the mountains to «Casablanca, Portugal, then Belgium in only five days».

When asked about the alleged involvement of officials in «facilitating drug smuggling», Paul told BBC that they «had to pay everyone to be 100% sure». «When you don’t get your containers scanned you get to pay a penalty : 1250 euros, so it is an easy choice», Paul who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for smuggling revealed.

To comment on these accusations, BBC Arabic spoke to the head of Morocco’s Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation Abdelhak Al Khiame. «Everything is under control all around the Kingdom and near its borders», he stated.

Replying to allegations, El Khiam said that «these are exaggerated accusations», adding that Moroccan authorities have «been able to bust most of smuggling operations».