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The Rif & Her Kif

In 2004, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) named Morocco as the single biggest supplier of hashish, or kif (Arabic for "bliss"), in the world. They reported that cannabis production was expanding so rapidly in the Rif that it was causing deforestation and soil erosion. The area under cultivation had increased from 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres) in 1950 to 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) at present.

The Moroccan government promptly announced plans to completely eradicate the cannabis crops by 2008. Although this lofty mission failed, latest figures do tell a story of a decline in Morocco's cannabis production. Eleven thousand drug enforcement personnel have reportedly been deployed into the Rif mountains and adjacent coastal areas, and the Moroccan Navy regularly carries out routine sea patrols. Arrests of traffickers at seaports are always given strong media publicity. However, the government is in a tough situation. It's estimated that up to two-thirds of the Rif's population depend on the crop for their income. True to the historical treatment of the Riffians, the vast majority of the annual profits from the kif industry -- said to be more than 110 billion dirham -- are taken by the British, Dutch, Spanish, and German drug lords ensconced in their hideaways on Spain's Costa del Sol. The average annual income from cannabis for a Rif farmer is just more than 20,000dh.

It's said that there's so much cannabis being farmed that the Rif region cannot even feed itself and needs to import up to 80% of its food from elsewhere in the country. Alternative crops such as avocados and olives are being encouraged, but supply is always influenced by demand, and in Europe this is increasing every year, with more than 20 million Europeans consuming cannabis annually.

For the traveler, the streets of Chefchaouen may appear a cannabis smoker's utopia, where many shops sell the local smoking pipe, a sebsi, and invite those who look even slightly alternative to share in a smoke. Warning: Smoking and possession of kif is illegal, and there have been highly publicized arrests of Westerners who violate this law.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.