Rif, Morocco

Smoking tolerance level [1= very illegal 5=virtually legal]: 2.5

Legislation: Smoking marijuana, or “kif” is illegal in the Kingdom of Morocco and the penalty for being caught with it is ten years in prison. However, tourists are frequently let off with only a fine due to Morocco’s need for both the tourism dollars and the $US7 billion dollars that makes kif their largest source of foreign currency.

Law enforcement: Discretion is the key word here. The police are not interested in small time smokers: in the north of Morocco, a high proportion of the local men (and a fair few local women) smoke kif – poor quality ground marijuana mixed with ‘tabac sauvage’ [illegally cultivated tobacco] – and hashish. Do NOT travel with anything more than a few grams (i.e. anything you can quickly swallow or throw away). If the local police think you are involved in smuggling (even on a very small scale) you can look forward to a few very unpleasant years, stuck in a local prison. Think Midnight Express.

Where to buy marijuana in Rif: The main town that is tourist-friendly in the Rif is called, variously Chefchaoen, Xaoen, Chaoen all pronounced “Shao En” (it means “look at the peaks!”, I believe). The town is built on top a a spur underneath one of the higher peaks in the Rif. It’s a very interesting a picturesque place that non-smokers will enjoy as much as those of us who go for the fine hashish. Buying in and around the town is easy. Tourists, especially young tourists who have only been in town for a day or so, will be approached frequently and offered hashish and kif. In general, it’s perfectly safe to go with these guys. They can be boring, high-pressure salesmen. They may well try to fob you off with poor quality stuff and keep from you the better stuff they have. They may be mildly aggressive and (if you’re a women) lecherous. But they’re generally ok. Look for one of the cleaner looking, younger dealers and keep and eye over your shoulder for the police (but don’t stress).

Elsewhere in the Rif: the Rif is sparsely populated , harsh, dry and mountainous terrain. It is dotted with villages predominantly occupied by local Berber tribespeople, many of whom live off subsistence agrculture (some fruit and veg) and small scale hash farming. Much of the hash farming is controlled by a loose, unofficial mafia. The smuggling is all controlled by this “mafia” (who are largely based around Ketama) and by local military/law enforcement. DON’T get involved or you’ll end up in jail. The Rif is very dry and this weather tends to mean farmers harvest their plants before they are fully ripe (before they die of drought). There is little irrigation and much irresponsible use of chemical fertiliser. The best hash produced in Morocco is produced high-up in remote villages in the Rif, where there is more moisture and, unfortunately, no road. So you’ll have to get your boots on to find the best stuff. The main growing region is, roughly, north of Ouezzane, East of Chefchaoen, west of Ketama and south of the coast. It is considered to be unise to buy in Ketama as there’s a high concentration of bored police and military here, on the look out for naive European smugglers to arrest. Having said that, for all the horror stories about Ketama, it seems like an ok place. If you want to meet some propoer “gangters” (usually pretty friendly, in my experience) head for somewhere like El Jebha, on the coast. You wont see another tourist for days.

My advice is: get some good hash in Chefchaoen, head down to the coast by taxi (I recommend going to Oued Laou) and then make a few trips in to the hills to see if you can find anything interesting.

Rif Marijuana prices: Varies. Typically around 15dirham a gram (a little over $1, a liitle under £1 per gram) for hash ; kif is very much cheaper, maybe 2dh a gram. Very good quality hash may be more expensive but bear in mind that the locals would pay, maybe 6dh a gram for the best stuff. Cheaper, of course, if you buy in quantity. Many dealers will offer to make you “caramelos” which are pre-wrapped lozenges weighing 3-5g, prepared for smuggling (by swallowing). Beware poorly wrapped caramelos and dealers who might cut a deal with the cops to arrest you at the border (when you’re far from Chefchaoen). I don’t recommend buying caramelos (tends to be lower quality stufff anyway) or smuggling: it’s not worth the risk.

Brands: Kif – poor quality ground marijuana mixed with ‘tabac sauvage’ [illegally cultivated tobacco]. Smoked in long thin pipes. The locals prefer to smoke kif. The tobacco is stronger than the weed, it’s fair to say. Not to most westerners’ tastes.

Bog-standard hash – plenty of it. Tends to be pale sandy colour. In dealers’ houses you will see football sized bricks of this stuff. Tends to be poorly, roughly pressed and have a dry gritty texture. You will need to re-press it. Is better than English soapbar/flat press, but not much. Moderately strong, cheap, dirty.

‘Zero-zero’ ‘sputnik’ etc The Moroccans have picked up a glossary of nicknames for their hash. These mean nothing but are meant to denote higher quality stuff. Sometimes, if you insist politely (or have an on-going relationship with a dealer) they will actually come up with something special along these lines. This can be some of the best quality hash in the world, or it can be just a bit fresher than the bog-standard hash. As with all good hash, it should press and cohere easily from the raw “pollen”, forming sticky resin with only a little pressure and body-heat. If you need spit or steam or warmth from a tea cup to get the pollen to cohere, it’s not the best stuff. As hash, it should snap fairly easily, with a clean break and should bend with a degree of plasticity. It should bubble violently at the merest touch of a flame.

Amsterdam quality – a small quantity of hash is produced by specialists (the Hashdoctor, Rifman etc) who are usually visitors from Northern Europe. They work with locals at producing very high quality, organic hash for export to Amsterdam. You wont find any street dealers in Chefchaoen selling this stuff but if you’re adventurous and lucky, you might find something of this quality up in the hills. Will be expensive but this is probably the strongest “old world” hash around (the Nederhasj/Isolator stuff in Holland is, of course, stronger).

More information: Many of the herbalists in Chefchaoen sell dried opium poppy heads, for making tea. Ask for “Rash-sha-sha”. Boil 30-40 poppy heads for 2hours or so to make a very potent opiate brew. Tastes unbelievably foul but will be a transport of delight. You can make 3 or 4 pots of tea with one load of poppy heads: just reboil them with fresh water for an hour or so.