Morocco considering legalizing pot to help farmers

Morocco-Rethinking-Po_Horo-e1412667031955-635x357Swaths of cannabis near the village of Ketama in the Village of Bni Hmed in the Ketama Abdelghaya valley, northern Morocco, on September 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

KETTAMA, Morocco (AP) — In the rugged Rif mountains, Abdelkhalek Benabdallah strode among towering marijuana plants, checking the buds for the telltale spots of white that indicate they are ready for harvest.

Much of the crop had been picked and left to dry on the roofs of stone-and-wood huts that dot the valley, the heart of Morocco’s pot-growing region. Benabdallah says he openly grows the crop, while understanding the risk: “We are regularly subject to blackmail by the gendarmes,” he said as he scythed through stalks and wrapped them into a bundle.

Morocco-Rethinking-Po_Horo-1-e1412667527955-635x357Abdelkhalek Ben Abdellah inspects his cannabis fields in the Rif mountains in the Village of Bni Hmed in Ketama Abdelghaya valley, northern Morocco, on September 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Morocco’s marijuana farmers live in a strange limbo in which the brilliant green fields are left alone, while the growers themselves face constant police harassment. A new draft law may bring some reprieve: It aims to legalize marijuana growing for medical and industrial uses, a radical idea for a Muslim nation. It could alleviate poverty and social unrest, but the proposal faces stiff opposition in this conservative country, as well as the suspicions of farmers themselves, who think politicians can do nothing help them.

Morocco is joining many other countries in the world, as well as some US states, in re-examining drug policies and looking to some degree of legalization. Morocco’s situation is unusual, however, in that Islamic traditions create deep taboos against drugs, despite the centuries-old tradition of growing marijuana in the north…

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